Thanks to the Plowden/Clothworkers’ Foundation CPD grant I was awarded this year, I was able to attend the annual meeting of CIMCIM, which took place in conjunction with the 25th ICOM General Conference in Kyoto, Japan. This triennial conference was a great success, it was attended by more than 4500 museum professionals from 120 countries and regions.
The theme of the general conference was 'Museums and Cultural Hubs: the Future of Tradition'. However one of the most interesting debates happened during the plenary session ‘The Museum Definition – The backbone of ICOM’ and the subsequent Extraordinary General Conference in which it was decided to postpones the vote on this definition. It was very stimulating if not enlightening to hear arguments for and against this new definition, and it made evident the importance, and rather difficult task of defining what we often take as granted “what is a museum?” This definition has relevant and inherent consequences which go form the philosophical to the economic, social, cultural, and even political aspects.
The theme for the conference of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Musical Instruments (CIMCIM) it was ‘Music Museums and Education.’ It explored how the role of education in Museums has transformed significantly over the past decades.
My paper, entitled “Hands-on Experience; Museum’s internships as educational resources” was very well received. I shared the panel with Sebastian Kirsch, from the Musical Instrument Museum University of Leipzig, who presented a very interesting paper entitled “Academic education in museums: the Leipzig University Collection as a hub for organology”, and with Manu Frederickx, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, with a paper entitled “Musical instruments as educators”. All three papers were rather complementary and together we explored how in the past two decades, and in the face of the highly competitive workplace, undertaking internships and fellowships before obtaining permanent employment has become endemic in the museums and galleries sector. Throughout our presentations, we explored new approaches to museums as teaching facilities, not only as depositaries of didactic objects, but as providers of a dynamic and practical educational resource for gaining work-based skills as a path towards a professional career. I expect further collaboration with colleagues from other institutions to create better opportunities to develop meaningful conservation internships in museums.
In addition to the paper sessions and the general conference events, the meeting included one half- day joint session with CIDOC (International Committee for Documentation) and an away-day organised with ICME (International Committee of Museums of Ethnology) hosted by Minpaku, the National Museum of Ethnology situated in Osaka, which holds one of the richest musical instrument collections in Japan. These two join sessions were very interesting and brought light to common subjects and the different approaches to address them. The museum itself was definitely worth a visit and it was an opportunity to learn and observe an ethnologic approach for the display and interpretation of musical instruments
Yet another extraordinary and enriching experience was the visit organized by CIMCIM to the Tobaya String Making Factory in Kyoto. This factory was established in the mid-seventeenth century and is has been managed and owned by the same family for thirteen generations, making high quality silk strings using traditional methods. During our visit the current owner demonstrated the very fascinating process to manufacture a shamisen string.
Attending this annual meeting was a fabulous opportunity to meet and liaise with colleagues from other institutions and to engage in meaningful conversations relevant to dynamic collections and the way we approach the storage, conservation, display, and use of our museum’s objects. Thus, I am certain it will have an impact to my professional career.
As I stated in my application for this grant, “I strongly believe in the dissemination of knowledge and teaching of the ethical and practical complexities involved in the conservation of historical objects”. The knowledge I have acquired by attending the ICOM/CIMCIM conference will permeate and directly influence the contents and scope of the internships and work placements for students I coordinate in the Musical Instrument Museum of the University of Edinburgh.
I cannot thank enough the Anna Plowden Trust for their support through the Plowden/Clothworkers’ Foundation CPD grant that made this experience possible.
Attending this annual meeting was a fabulous opportunity to meet and liaise with colleagues from other institutions and to engage in meaningful conversations relevant to dynamic collections and the way we approach the storage, conservation, display, and use of our museum’s objects. I am certain it will have an impact to my professional career.