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The week in art news – ICOM agrees on what a museum is

26 August 2022

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has voted to agree a new definition of a museum. The Art Newspaper reports that, at the council’s General Assembly in Prague on Wednesday, 92 per cent of representatives from more than 500 museums voted in favour of the new definition, which for the first time includes values such as ‘accessibility’, ‘inclusivity’ and ‘sustainability’. The update to the definition has been controversial, and subject to a long debate – an intended vote on the definition was postponed at the General Assembly in Kyoto back in 2019. It is the first time the definition of a museum has been updated since 2007, and the first significant update since the 1970s. The new definition reads:

A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.

From 15 November, the American Alliance of Museums will require museums to include salaries for any position they advertise on the AAM jobs board. The association comprises some 35,000 museums across the United States, while there are around 200 vacancies currently listed on its board. ‘We know that salary transparency practices can’t thoughtfully take place overnight or in isolation. It requires a critical look at current practices and, for many, the collaboration and approval of parent organizations, boards, and other entities,’ the AAM has stated.

The interim director of the Orlando Museum of Art has resigned. The news of Luder Whitlock’s departure comes less than two months after he stepped into the role to replace former director Aaron De Groft, who was sacked after a Basquiat exhibition was raided by the FBI and a number of works were seized as suspected forgeries.

The artist Htein Lin and his wife Vicky Bowman, a former UK ambassador to Burma from 2002–06, have been detained by the Burmese government on charges of violating immigration law; Reuters reports that they are to be sent to the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon. Lin is known for speaking out against the current regime: ‘No one who lives in Myanmar today feels safe,’ he told the Art Newspaper two weeks ago.