UNESCO Brings Museums Of the World Together To Reflect On Their Future



Release Date

Monday, March 15, 2021


Paris, 15 March - UNESCO bring together 12 museum directors from around the world at an online debate on 18 March entitled Reflections on the Future of Museums (2 to 5 pm, Central European Time). The discussion will focus on the impact of the pandemic on their institutions, how they are addressing ongoing challenges and preparing the future of their museums. 

“We need museums more than ever,” says Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. “The pandemic has highlighted their vital contribution to social cohesion, the economy and creativity. The crisis is deep. We must do everything possible to ensure that museums retain their important function as meeting places of inspiration, sharing, and cultural mediation.”

Estimated to number around 95,000 worldwide in 2020, museums have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Ninety percent of them closed their doors, while others have been put to different uses. Whereas some museums are currently reopening their doors to visitors, others, according to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), may never open again.

To overcome the challenges of a world deeply marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming crucial for museums to adapt and reinvent themselves. Questions regarding their future are becoming more pressing than ever and the debate will provide an opportunity to discuss the conditions and environment needed to operate the transformation of museums at the international level.

Mr Ottone R. will open the discussions with the President of ICOM, Alberto Garlandini. Two high-level panels will then focus on: lessons learnt from the pandemic, how museums are looking ahead to the post-COVID future.

List of panelists: 

- Barbara Helwing, Director of the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Berlin)
- Tristram Hunt, Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London)
- Deborah Lynn Mack, Director of the National Museum of African Art (Washington, D.C.)
- Laurella Yssap-Rinçon, Director of the ACTe Memorial (Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe)
- Xudong Wang, Director of the Palace Museum (Beijing)
- Emmanuel Kasarhérou, President of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac (Paris)
- Juliana Restrepo, Director of the National Museum of Colombia (Bogota)
- Antonio Saborit, Director of the National Museum of Anthropology (Mexico City)
- Ahmed Farouk Ghoneim, Executive Director of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (Cairo)
- Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museum (Rome) 
- Mikhail Piotrovski, Director of the Hermitage Museum (Saint Petersburg) 
- Hamady Boucum, Director of the Museum of Black Civilizations (Dakar).

The first panel, on the concrete repercussions of the health crisis on museums, will be moderated by Laurella Yssap-Rinçon, Director of the Mémorial ACTe (Pointe à Pitre). It will bring together Barbara Helwing, Xudong Wang, Juliana Restrepo, Tristram Hunt and Ahmed Farouk Ghoneim.

The second panel on how museums are meeting the challenges of the present and preparing for the future will be moderated by Emmanuel Kasarherou, President of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac (Paris). Antonio Saborit, Hamady Boucum, Barbara Jatta, Mikhail Piotrovski and Deborah Lynn Mack are scheduled to take part in the discussion. 

The debate is part of UNESCO’s work to support museums and their professionals in an unprecedented situation. It also contributes to the Organization’s promotion of the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society and the 2020 Report on Museumsaround the World in the Face of COVID-19. 

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