According to ICOM (International Council of Museums) a museum “is a non-profit, permanent institution at the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and recreation”.
It is important to point out that museums are institutions, not collections, warehouses of cultural goods or simple exhibitions. These institutions must have a formal structure that covers the basic functions of a museum: research, heritage conservation, education, dissemination and, finally, exhibition.
Museums have the responsibility to safeguard the testimony of humanity and its development; they are part of the foundation of a nation’s cultural identity. Museums have the mission to serve society through the preservation of cultural and natural heritage and through education, therefore they are institutions of non-formal education.
They contribute to the development of society from several angles. They serve as a basis for creating new knowledge, they are generators of new ideas and good museography should contribute to the development of the visitor’s critical thinking. When you visit a museum you always, without exception, come away with more information. The use given to this information is a determining factor in the development of each individual’s awareness.
They are institutions that generate jobs and resources, ranging from those who work inside the museum, employees and specialists, to those who provide services. They increase the cultural offer of the cities where they are located and, consequently, make them more attractive.
Museums are the only institutions where two of the most important development axes of a country converge: education and tourism.
A new definition of museums is currently being discussed within ICOM, which includes terms such as ”democratizing, participatory and transparent spaces…, they have the purpose of contributing to human dignity and social justice”. This new definition of museums, if approved at the next ICOM General Conference, to be held in Kyoto in September, will revolutionize the concept of museums and represents a challenge for Dominican museum institutions.
We hope that national museums will be in tune with the global trend and transform themselves, that they will assume their role as agents of social change and development. We are sure that if we achieve the changes that society requires, our institutions will become relevant for the citizens.
Without an attractive offer, if we do not fulfill our role responsibly, we will never be able to reach the position that corresponds to us as institutions at the service of society and its development.
We hope that citizens will become aware of the importance of museums as entities of development and guardians of our cultural identity.
Source: Luisa De Peña Díaz, Santo Domingo, DR