ICME “what we do” statement


11th October 2018

The ICME Working Group on “What We Do” presented at the ICOM-ICME Annual Conference the report on the discussion between ICME members regarding ICME’s identity – name, description, mission, aims. You can donload the report here.


The ICME Working Group on “What We Do”: Laurie Kalb Cosmo, Susan Faine, Eveline Lameer, Doris Prlic, Graeme Were 


7th of August 2018

Dear ICME and all other interested ICOM Members,

ICOM’s International Committee for Museums of Ethnography (ICME) represents a type of museum that has undergone tremendous change in the past few decades, with changing attitudes toward collecting, exhibiting and community involvement in programming.

Last year, there was lively discussion about an appropriate mission statement for ICME, but no representative consensus was reached. So this year a Working Group was formed to inquire into member attitudes to ICME’s mission and how to best express them.

We have prepared the following questionnaire and would appreciate you taking the time to consider and answer it, responding to us by September 1.  It is accessible with this link as a Google doc.

QUESTIONNAIRE (click on the link to access)

We will present a summary of your questionnaire responses to the ICME board at the annual ICME conference, to take place in Tartu, Estonia (October 9 – 12, 2018).


Our aim is to represent the broad ICME membership. To move forward with discussions related to our mission, we need YOUR valuable input.

With many thanks and all best wishes,

The Working Group on “What We Do”

Laurie Kalb Cosmo, Susan Faine, Eveline Lameer, Doris Prlic, Graeme Were

New ICME Working Group Established to Address “What We Do”

24th of April 2018

Dear ICME Colleagues and Friends,

It is my pleasure to announce the establishment of a new Working Group to address the question of “What We Do” and the museums we represent.

Intermittently, over the past few years and in recent months, discussions have arisen over the mission and name of our international committee and the definition of the museums we represent.

The word “ethnography” has been problematized, due to current museological practice and postcolonial discourse, and the terms ethnography and ethnology have been scrutinized for the diverse meanings they have in different parts of the world.

Simply put, the mission, definition and sheer existence of ethnographic museums has undergone much revision and change in the 21st century, and it will be our job to explore what that means for our international ICOM committee.

Allow me here to introduce the makeup of our Working Group:

Dr. Laurie Kalb Cosmo, Art History Faculty, Temple University Rome, Italy/Research Associate, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, USA ICME ICOM Boardmember  (Working Group Chair)

Dr. Graeme Were, Chair and Professor, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol, UK, ICME ICOM Boardmember

Doris Prlic, Coordinator of the European Union-funded SWICH (Sharing a World of Inclusion, Creativity and Heritage) Project, Weltmuseum, Vienna, Austria

Susan Faine, Independent Curator and Former Curator/Collections Manager, Jewish Museum of Australia, Melbourne

Eveline Lameer, Intern, Ethnographic Collections, University of Ghent Museum and Masters Candidate in Museums and Collections at Leiden University, the Netherlands

To accomplish the tasks before us, the Working Group will need your support and participation.  Our decisions and recommendations will be based on sustained communication with you!

We will have goals and we will set deadlines.  You will hear more about this in the coming months, as we define channels for reaching you..

Our ultimate deadline is the upcoming ICME ICOM meeting in Tartu, Estonia, from 9 – 12 October, 2018, where we will present a report based on our research and dialogues.  We look forward to hearing from you often through this process and seeing you in Estonia!

Thanks so much for your time! More to come from us.

All best wishes,

Laurie Kalb Kosmo

Call for Working Group Participants to Address “What We Do” at ICME

14 February 2018

Dear ICME Members,

Greetings from a sunny Rome, where winter is slowly but surely taking flight and spring is on its way!

As many of you know, some issues have come up over the past few months about the description of our ICOM international committee and the text that ICME uses to present itself to the public. ICME is one of 30 ICOM international committees. Their purpose is to function as “global think tanks on museum, and more generally, heritage, matters. They define the museum professional’s standards, share scientific information, establish partnerships with other organizations and develop recommendations for ICOM members.” icom.museum/the-committees/international-committees/. In other words, we in our international committees are expected to take a leadership role for our respective museum categories.

ICME represents a type of museum that has undergone tremendous change in the past few decades. Many museums of ethnography have reexamined their collecting, exhibiting and programming practices to meet the needs of a changing world. Others have reassessed the word “ethnography” itself. To further complicate the landscape, varied countries use the word “ethnography” differently and therefore represent multiple museum practices and values.

With these important issues in mind, our ICME Chair Dr. Viv Golding has asked me, in my capacity as second-term ICME board member, to form a working group to revisit the written description of ICME, and consider a wider frame of what museums of ethnography represent in the 21st  century. Hence, this letter is a call to all those interested to let me know of your availability to serve with me and tackle these topics.

The working group will be small, approximately 3 – 4 people chosen to represent a broad geographic and institutional diversity and stated interest in serving. The commitment will not be onerous but will be on task and result-oriented—the group will communicate among ourselves, create questionnaires for distribution to the membership, gather replies and draft a definition for presentation to the membership by the next ICME meeting, to take place 9 – 12 October in Tartu, Estonia.

For potential working group partners, I will need to hear from you by 28 February 2018  at: lauriecosmo@gmail.com. Our group will be formed by 30 March and we will begin our work in April. Looking forward to hearing from you all of you as we embark on this important and timely exercise.

All best wishes,


Laurie Kalb Cosmo, Ph.D.

Art History Faculty

Temple University Rome

Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, 15 

00196 Roma Italia


mobile +39 334 579 3174

Skype Laurie.Kalb2

We warmly invite ICME members to JOIN THE DISCUSSION!

20 November 2017

Dear ICME members,

Sometimes it is best to take a step backwards and start moving forward from the beginning again. This is what we’ll try now.

For some time the following text, let us call it the new text, has been the ICME-description meeting you when you opened the ICME web page:

ICME is dedicated to promoting and safeguarding the human rights of all the peoples of the world, their cultures, societies and environments as well as the tangible and intangible heritage held in museums. Since ICME views identities as dynamic, fluid and multiple rather than essentialist and fixed it is committed to contemporary collecting and collaborative action together with diverse global heritage communities. ICME recognises the colonial histories and the sexist legacies that underpin so many of our traditional ethnographic collections and pro-actively engages with colleagues worldwide to progress intercultural understanding amongst museum audiences as opposed to prejudice and stereotype.

It replaced the old text:

ICME is the international committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) devoted to ethnographic museums and collections from local, national, and/or global cultures and societies. ICME is concern[ed] with the challenges facing ethnographic museums and collections in a changing world while representing people and their cultures.  Ethnographic collections are found in all types of museums – ethnography, art, folk, history, natural history.

There is also a somewhat longer old text, headlined “About ICME” (and “ICME Aims”), on the webpage: network.icom.museumhttp://icme.icom.museum/about-icme/mission-and-aims/.

When you now go into the ICME homepage (and “Mission and aims” page), the old text has been brought up on top again and the new text is found below, see: network.icom.museum/icme/.

We invite all ICME members to respond to the following questions:

1) What is your opinion about the old text presenting ICME on ICME’s web page? Can it be improved and eventually how?

2) What is your opinion about the new text? Can it be improved and eventually how?

3) Can the old text and the new text be integrated into forming a whole? Eventually how?

4) If you should instead propose a new self-presentation for ICME, what words, formulations or full text would you suggest?

Send your contribution to the ICME Yahoo list: icme@yahoogroups.com.


If you do not want it to be accessible to all – send to: pbrekdal@extern.uio.no.

and it will be taken into account by the small work group established for this debate. We are Per B. Rekdal (former ICME Chair), Annette Fromm (former ICME Chair) and Viv Golding (present ICME Chair).

If you are still not a member of the ICME Yahoo Group, you can subscribe to the list following these INSTRUCTIONS.

We look forward to your contributions!

Viv Golding
ICME Chair