Jette Sandahl

A shared museum definition within opposing, contradictory, uneven and contested trends?

Each year a number of global surveys document what people, with regional and other demographic variations, find to be the most pressing issues facing the world today and in the near future.

The ICOM Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials Committee Museum has questioned museum professionals across the world about what they perceive as the most urgent challenges faced by societies and by museums today, and how to best address these.

Museum professionals diagnose urgent concerns similar to those of other people. They also voice the need for museums to recognize and address these. But are these concerns impacting on museum theory and practice as changing paradigms, as changing priorities and methodologies?

And is it possible to perceive any shared directions of change and development in museums amidst the opposing, contradictory, uneven and contested global trends?

When trying to sort through the specific challenges faced by the museum sector as well as by the individual museum, it seems important to discern and separate on the one hand the tensions and shortcoming based in epistemological and museological constructs rooted to previous centuries, which have become outmoded and inadequate today, and on the other hand the tensions and pressures created by aggressive, current neo-liberalist and new public management intentions and models, so that questions of museum quality and relevance are not simply conflated with or subsumed by questions of size or scale?


Jette Sandahl