Where do we go from here? The participants share their reflections

The Saint Petersburg part of the conference ended with what we believe is the most important: a conversation, with all the participants at the final gathering, instead of just closing remarks from the committee.

‘YOU have made it real’, said Kathy Dwyer Southern from ICOM US, and put forward several great questions in two parts:

  • What will you remember best? What were you most surprised by? And what was the most controversial?
  • What role do you think museums should play now? What can you do to make a difference? And where do you go from here?

Here is what some of the participants shared:

“It is great to end up with questions, not answers.”
“I was surprised by the scale: of the sessions, of the rooms.”
“I wished for more opportunities for dialogue, and more opportunities for young professionals to attend such conferences, as they are the future.”
“I was surprised by the people and the extraordinary context in which I could interact with many people of the world. And I found there were many opportunities to have dialogues of a more informal kind.”
“I was overwhelmed in terms of the settings.”
“Before, I had the impression that conversations might not be easy, that participants will be more reserved due to the political situation, and unsure how to engage with each other. Only to find out that as we share the same passion, there has been an openness right from the beginning, and international conversations all over.”
“This conference is living proof that a cooperation between these three national ICOM committees can work and does work.”
“I was surprised by the high numbers of museums worldwide that struggle with the government, I thought it would be fewer than that.”
“The training of museum staff was not addressed. But it should, as the fundament training is the basis of our work.”
“I was surprised by the magnificent Russian museum scene, and how important they are. But in the conference museums of all scales united in discussions and sharing, which I really appreciated.”
“There is still a lot to learn about each other, we need to go deeper and learn more about the different structures, systems, mentalities and such.”
“I heard what people said, but I wasn’t sure what they always meant.”
“I was surprised by the different translation of the conference title.” [English: Museum & Politics; Russian: Museum & Power]
“I learned that there a many new museum projects around the world, especially national museums – but their creation is unfortunately not always based on a scientific basis. I noticed the missing display of women in one museum project that was presented.”
“Museums have power, so the Russian conference title reflects on two different worlds.”
“It is highly important to spread out into the world the word about this very conference, and that people from different countries can work very well together.”
“Controversial? The conference topic in itself.”
“I was asked by many people at home why I came here. Now I realize that we have similar ways to solve common problems, so rather surprised by the little amount of controversies.”
“I plea to open our archives! We are all colleagues, we should work together; and objects are not really ours, even if they are now with us.”
“I take away from the conference an understanding and empathy of various new perspectives. To learn about those perspectives and recognizing them is core to our work.”
“Sometimes we have to sleep on certain things, not just adapting to new ideas. They have to fit.”
“Communication is not just speaking, but talking about our history etc.”
“Us slavic people have problems facing our past, but we have to face it, address it in our museums. The ideologically shaped past hurts a lot, but I take with me to Serbia, that we should have memory places and we should face the hard facts. Museum play a big role in that, and I commend Germany for its work in that.”
“Museum is a place for communication and to treat national trauma. And we must do that”
“We must remember museums are a place for something interesting, really intriguing.”
“Museums must be relevant to youth.”
“This conference is the end of the beginning of the discussions.”
“With three conference languages, make your speeches easier to translate, so you can be sure the your message will be delivered and be understood.”
“The accompanying social media project is a good way for the conference in preparation and for ICOM in the future.”
“Making a difference needs courage! To see that we all share the same values gives us the strength to be courageous.”
“I was impressed by the number of participants coming to Russia in these times.”
“The conferences proves we are not alone in the world, we can do things together!”
“The conference proved that although our governments not alway get along, we do – and we should make this public.”
“Thanks to everybody who took the decisions to come, since all of us asked themselves this questions at one point during the preparations.”
“Everybody here is open and frank; and respect and sharing is an important mark of the conference; as well as the ability to accept other opinions. This respect, is an important step forward, we should proceed in this direction.”
“Going home now means having no more fear to be confronted with politics, we are braver now to confront politicians, not begging or waiting what they will do or decide.”
“I suggest to establish training groups between different countries so we can build up much deeper networks for a longer period.”
“The conference title is dualistic, but we are part of politics, but not authorities (the Russian власть also has the meaning of authority). The Russian title has something alarming.”
“What can ICOM do to move the discussion forward?”

As you, conference-goer, have returned home, what thoughts are now foremost in your mind?  Are there thoughts you didn’t have a chance to express in this final session?  Please share them in the comments.

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One comment on “Where do we go from here? The participants share their reflections
  1. Pingback: Museums, Politics and Power | Tsarskoye Selo

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