On Monday, the day before the full start of the conference, the three national ICOM chairmen were joined by Hans-Martin Hinz, President of ICOM and Mikhail Piotrovski of the Hermitage for a press conference in the ornate Hermitage Theater. They shared the start of the conference–a goal to collaborate between Russia and Germany, now three years ago, and the enthusiastic joining of the United States to become a third partner. The country chairmen, Michael Henkel of Germany, Vladimir Tolstoy of Russia and Kathy Dwyer Southern of the United States all shared their perspective on the importance both the topic and such person to person exchanges, because, as Southern said, “we all deal in politics every day,” from the internal to the global.
Hinz spoke of ICOM’s pride in being here. ICOM was formed just after World War II, with initially only European nations coming together to address critical issues and so it continues now with more than 33,000 ICOM members in 117 member nations around the world.
Questions from the press were solely in Russian and we’re still collecting full information. Several questions dealt with current issues in Ukraine. According to Hinz, ICOM is in close contact with Ukrainian colleagues but that in the current situation in eastern Ukraine is very complicated, “We do not have any impact as long as the conflict is hot. It’s not possible to intervene” but they are closely monitoring the situation as several museums have been badly damaged. He expressed hope that the current cease-fire holds and that ICOM is ready, as always in areas of conflict, to offer assistance in not only Ukraine, but in other areas of current conflict as well. This point was reiterated by Kathy Dwyer Southern who highlighted the fact that one important aspect of the international community was an “ongoing willingness to share information.”
What else happened the day before the offical start? The board members of the three national comittees of ICOM met and the Welcome Session introduced ICOM and the conference, but soon we found ourself discussing museums and current political issues.