President's Page : Kevin Fewster

    At the ICMM conference in Cascais, Portugal,  held 8-15 September 2013, I was honoured to accept the nomination to be ICMM President for the next two years.  Cascais was a wonderful meeting, attended by over 120 delegates from 27 countries.   Everyone who attended will, I know, join me in sincerely thanking the Congress organising committee, superbly lead by Read Admiral Antonia Bossa Dionisio and Linda Pereira.  Blessed by spectacular late summer weather, we all left Portugal intellectually and physically reinvigorated.

    I wish to thank the programming committee, led by Marika Hedin from the Vasa Museum, for constructing such a stimulating congress programme.  Similarly, sincere thanks to each and every speaker – without you there would have been no congress.

    Everyone at Cascais joined me in thanking our retiring President, Frits Loomeijer from the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam.  We also recognised the contributions made by our other outgoing office bearers: Vice-President Hanna Hagmark-Cooper, Secretary-General Alan Edenborough and Hon. Treasurer Anna Rosengren.  We also thank the other retiring Executive Committee (EC) members and co-opted members:  Rachel Mulhearn. Paula Johnston, Morten Hahn-Pedersen, Marika Hedin and Nigel Rigby.   Organisations like ICMM rely wholly on the willingness of members to sustain themselves.  It can be a thankless task.  We thank all of the outgoing EC, especially those who are retiring, for their commitment and enthusiasm.

    It is my honour to introduce our new office bearers appointed at Cascais:

    Vice President: Stephen White (President, Mystic Seaport Museum)

    Hon Secretary-General: Henk Dessens (Director of Collections, Sheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam)

    Hon Treasurer: Marieke van Bommel (Executive Director, Maritiem Museum, Rotterdam)

    Webmaster: Alan Edenborough (Sydney Heritage Fleet), who is continuing in this role with support being provided by the Australian National Maritime Museum.

    In addition, I’m delighted to welcome our newly elected EC members:

    Kevin Sumption (Director, ANMM, Sydney)

    Richard Wesley (Director, Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

    Christian del Real (Director, National Maritime Museum of Chile)

    Ursula Warnke (Co-Director , Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, Bremerhaven).

    Over coming months we will be co-opting additional members to the EC to assist us with planning and programming for our 2015 Congress in Hong Kong.

    This is the second time I have had the honour of serving as ICMM President.  I previously led ICMM in 1996-9 when Director of ANMM, Sydney.  I was not seeking the post this time around, but answered the call when local circumstances prevented other EC members from nominating.   It is my intention to serve only a two year term, not the usual four year term.

    ICMM was formed in the early 1970s, some 40 years ago, due in large part to the joint initiative of the then directors of the National Maritime Museum Greenwich (at which I am currently Director) and Mystic Seaport Museum.  Greenwich provided ICMM’s first President and Mystic it’s third.   Perhaps surprisingly, neither had supplied a president since.   I know Steve White joins me in hoping that the resources and reputations of Greenwich and Mystic can be utilised to the benefit of ICMM over the next few years.

    I strongly believe that ICMM's main value and appeal for its members lies in two key areas:

    - the biennial Congress with an excellent programme of sessions and speakers plus the opportunity it provides to network with colleagues from across the globe, and

    - a good, active website that provides relevant and up to date information about matters of mutual interest, reports from maritime museums across the world, exhibition updates and reviews etc.

    There are many other sector organisations in many countries across the world that provide us with other benefits (training, local conferences etc). I do not think ICMM needs to compete with such organisations.   ICMM offers its own important niche of specific activities that have unique appeal to maritime museum professionals and others interested in maritime museums and maritime heritage.  It’s up to all of us, whether general members or on the Executive, to make the best use of ICMM and to support it.  Like any such organisation, ICMM is only as good as the inputs of its members.

    Last January, following comments Frits Loomeijer made at the 2011 Congress in Newport News, the EC released via the ICMM website a paper entitled ‘ICMM’s Future: the business case to 2021’.   This paper proposed a bold future for our organisation, coupled with very significant increases in member subscription rates.

    As we are all only too aware, museums around the world are currently experiencing tough times as many national economies are under serious strain.  This fraught situation applies, regardless of whether the museum is public funded or privately funded.  Sadly, maritime museums are not immune from these issues

    As such, when I agreed to being nominated for the Presidency, I informed Frits and the outgoing EC that, if elected, I would be asking the new EC to review our forward strategy and our membership fee structure.  It is thus pleasing that the outgoing EC has recommended that the membership fees be held at the 2013 level rather than increased again in 2014.

    Naturally, the incoming EC has not yet had time to review recent ICMM budgets.   I announced to the Cascais meeting that we will be reviewing and revising our budget over coming months to meet the current challenging circumstances.   I do accept that normal inflationary pressures and the needs of running a good website may require some review of the ‘old’ (pre 2013) ICMM annual membership fee structure.  I also acknowledge the point Frits makes in his January 2013 paper that maintaining accurate membership records is crucial if we are to give good service to all our members. These will be key priorities for the incoming Executive, as will shaping the programme for our next Congress meeting in Hong Kong.

    I also announced to the General Assembly meeting that the new EC hopes to review the ICMM Constitution to make us a more inclusive organisation and also to make our administration less cumbersome.  In addition, I gave an undertaking that we will ensure that the Richard Foster Bursary scheme for the Hong Kong congress is launched good-and-early so that applicants have ample time to make their travel plans.

    Without in any way wanting to be disrespectful to our shared passion for maritime communications, it’s modern air travel plus telecommunications (email, the internet and social media) that provide us all with unparalleled opportunities to work together no matter where we might live around the world.   ICMM offers us a unique forum for the exchange ideas, to share programming and to get to know colleagues wherever we might live and work.  Our challenge is to choose the best, most effective ways of utilising these opportunities to make ICMM relevant and engaging for all member museums, large and small.  Please check the ICMM Website regularly and, even better, I urge you to keep our webmaster informed of things that are happening at your museum and in your region.

    And finally, all of us on the EC encourage you to start thinking about what you want to discuss in Hong Kong in 2015…and to start saving your pennies so that you can be there to enjoy it.

    Dr Kevin Fewster