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Public Debate
Memory and Universality: New Challenges Facing Museums


Monday 5 February, UNESCO Headquarters

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As a follow-up to an initiative launched in 2005, the journal Museum International organized a second public debate on a topical museum-related issue. The main objective of the event was to initiate a constructive dialogue among museum professionals, academics and UNESCO Member States regarding the transfer of artworks and cultural objects.

The confrontation between the universal mission of museums and the massive transfer of cultural property over the course of history has sparked lively debate in professional circles.

Many countries have recognized the importance of museums as a place for the preservation, study and display of their cultural past. Moreover, some countries have appealed to the international community for assistance in reconstituting their cultural memory and traditional knowledge by requesting the return of objects preserved in foreign collections.

This desire to play a role in the management and preservation of cultural heritage is also valid for certain cultural communities within States, such as indigenous groups. Such requests suggest that new forms of mutually beneficial collaboration should be studied and established between museums, governments and heritage professionals.

Committed to defending the universality of museums’ missions on the one hand, and recognizing the need for countries to preserve their past and to reconstitute their cultural memory on the other, UNESCO seeks to promote the accessibility and sharing of knowledge associated with cultural objects.

In order to reach these aims, UNESCO wishes to associate with all actors in order to complement legal considerations with philosophical and historical perspectives. A panel of professionals representing different approaches to the issues of memory and universality will debate for the first time:

Universal Museums

International Council of Museums

  • Alissandra Cummins, President, ICOM
  • Bernice Murphy, President, Ethics Committee, ICOM

Museum Community and Source Countries

Academic Community

  • Krzysztof Pomian, Philosopher, Historian, Director of Research Emeritus, French Centre national de recherche scientifique (CNRS)

Articles from the Press

For more information:

Start Date 2007-02-05 7:00 pm -
End Date 2007-02-05 9:00 pm -
Event Type Debate público
Event Location Sede de la UNESCO, Sala XI
Document 1 InfoDoc_Eng.pdf
Document 2 allAfrica_com.htm
Document 3 LeFigaro.pdf
Document 4 LeMonde.pdf