Museum redefinition in a loop

At the recent International Council of Museums (ICOM) in Kyoto, cultural institutions debated a new definition of museums that included social justice and equality. Miriam Cosic looks at how the Australian contingent voted.

Museums have been undergoing an identity crisis of late. Their definition has been overturned ever since women, marginalised people, former colonies and other groups have taken action against the Enlightenment view of museums as colonialist cabinets of curiosities. Based on material artefacts to tell the history of society, museum collections often included misused religious objects and even body parts – often without regard for the object’s owners or their culture.

The demand for the repatriation of looted artefacts has increasingly been acceded to by museums. Taking a new global view, modern museums work towards decolonising history and culture at all levels of collection, scholarship and exhibition. They operate on the principle that museums are inherently political (exemplified by the Twitter hashtag #MuseumsAreNotNeutral) , not disinterested scholarship, and must take on the role of interrogating history and possible futures.

Unlock Padlock Icon

Like this content?

Become a Member and unlock unlimited Access today

Miriam Cosic
About the Author
Miriam Cosic is a journalist and author, and Arts and Literary editor of the Australian (1996-2012). She also wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald from1993-96, and is currently a freelance contributor to The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, The Guardian among others.  Born in Melbourne, she now lives in Sydney and is the author of Only Child (1999) and Right to Die: An Examination of the Euthanasia Debate (2003).