Museum experts and researchers meeting at Estonian National Museum

Estonian National Museum in Tartu.
Estonian National Museum in Tartu. Source: Berta Vosman

Starting on Tuesday, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography (ICOM-ICME) is meeting in Tartu for its 51st annual conference, a three-day event that is assembling the world's museum gurus in Estonia's unofficial capital. At the conference, the experts are discussing the latest developments in the world of museums, an increasingly challenging field in the fast-paced world of today.

Museums have several jobs to do considering both society as well as the development of every individual human being, ERR's culture portal wrote earlier this week. Active in and affected by the fields of culture, education and social issues, museums find themselves forced to keep up with technological developments, visitor expectations and plenty of other challenges.

"As contemporary museum professionals, we may be asked to perform a range of roles that take us out of our traditional comfort zones, as we seek collaborative action across boundaries including: nation, ethnic identity, class, disability, gender and sexual preference," the organisation's description of the conference reads.

"Museums have often ventured into difficult discussions and the engagement of diverse audiences. We might prioritise storytelling and sharing curatorial power so that myriad stories can be told in exhibition spaces, programmes and outreach to attract more diverse audiences. At the same time, such work can be seen as radical change threatening collections care, research and the place of the object in 'new' museums devoted to opening dialogue."

The ICOM-ICME's annual conference is a chance for experts to exchange thoughts and opinions, and hear about the latest that is happening in the world of museums. Deemed a fitting setting for the event, this year's issue is taking place at the Estonian National Museum (Eesti rahva muuseum, short ERM).

Beyond the aspects typically associated with museums, there are the more worldly effects of the local economy, community and also tourism to consider.

"Considering all of these aspects, every museum has to answer an important question, namely how to talk about and maintain culture, history, knowledge and human experience," says ERM's research secretary, Agnes Aljas. "These dilemmas, but also success stories are what we're looking at."

The conference's speakers include Dr Andrea Witcomb, professor of cultural heritage and museum studies at Deakin University, Australia, Dr Wayne Modest, head of the Research Center for Material Culture and professor of material culture and critical heritage studies at the faculty of humanities at the Vrije University Amsterdam, Dr Philipp Schorch, head of research at the State Ethnographic Collections Saxony, Germany, and Dr Pille Runnel, research director and deputy director of the Estonian National Museum.

The conference is on for another three days, ending 12 October.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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