2011 ICMM Congress
The 2011 Congress of the ICMM was held October 9-15 2011 in Washington, DC, and Newport News, Virginia, USA.
After more than a decade, the ICMM returned to North America. Connecting with the Future seemed to be an especially appropriate choice of theme, given the venues in the 'new world' and given the challenges and opportunities facing our museums in the new millennium.
Jointly hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History – the only truly national history museum in America – and the Mariners’ Museum, the Congress provided magnificent venues for sessions, receptions, tours and conversations.
The Congress began in Washington, DC with a Sunday reception on the national mall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. After an optional day or two of visits to other great museums along the mall, our colleagues were welcomed by Paula Johnson and by Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture. The centerpiece of the evening was the Smithsonian’s major maritime exhibition, On the Water: Stories from Maritime America. The sumptuous dinner was the perfect antidote to jetlag and a welcome chance to reconnect with our colleagues old.
The real business of the Congress began Monday morning, as sessions got under way at the nearby National Portrait Gallery. The keynote session “Museums as Community” featured a presentation by Ford Bell, the president of the American Association of Museums, who described the economic and professional challenges facing the thousands of museums in the United States and the international museum community.
The balance of Day 1 was spent in sessions exploring how museums in Gothenburg, Vlaardingen and Hong Kong are working to connect with real visitors On-Site in real time and real space, and then how organizations in Rotterdam, Oostduinkerke and Stockholm are creatively connecting with them On-Line in virtual time and space.
After just a brief pause to catch our breaths, we were transported by coach across the city to the historic Washington Navy Yard, cleared through the obligatory security checkpoints and treated to an evening food, local beers and song at the National Museum of the United States Navy.
Day 2 offered spouses and companions a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol and the Library of Congress, while the delegates reconvened at the Portrait Gallery once again. Tuesday morning’s sessions focused on how we can be leaders in Social and Cultural Regeneration. Examples of initiatives in America, Taiwan, Bermuda and Greece provided proof of the broad cultural impact we can have in our own communities and nations. Colleagues from Liverpool, Hamburg and Sydney next made convincing cases for their museums’ role in their regional economic health and revival.
Tuesday afternoon offered attendees a menu of short reports from the field, a welcome chance to explore more of Washington’s historic sites and museums, or an opportunity to just relax before heading to the evening reception hosted by the Australian Embassy. Arranged by the always-diplomatic Mary Louise Williams, the evening featured delicious foods, wines and art with a definite Aussie accent.
Wednesday was a travel day, as we bid adieu to Washington and headed south along the Chesapeake Bay toward Newport News, Virginia. The coach trip featured a stop at Jamestown Settlement, the site of Britain’s first successful colony in America (1607). Today, Jamestown features rich archaeological finds, recreated fortifications, buildings, vessels and trades, and a magnificent museum filled with the art and artifacts of the era. A light rain only added to the atmosphere of this voyage back into America’s beginnings.
Arriving at Newport News, we were welcomed to the Mariners’ Museum by our host William Cogar and his volunteers and trustees. They received us with traditional Tidewater hospitality and treated us to a magnificent dinner and tour of the museum’s extensive exhibitions.
Thursday morning tested the limits of ICMM’s 21st-century interconnectivity. A keynote address from Rick van der Ploeg, Professor of Economics, was webcast into our meeting room from the University of Oxford, UK. Despite the best efforts and technology available at Mariners’, the session ended with us all wishing that we actually had Rick with us in Virginia, to question much more deeply.
The sessions that followed suffered from no such lack of spontaneity. A truly amazing range of Partnerships was explored by our colleagues at Mariners’, Mystic Seaport, NOAA, Gdansk and the Vasa Museum. Partnerships with universities, corporations, communities and national agencies were all honestly described, with unvarnished attention given to both benefits and dangers.
The Future of Collections in our museums was next on the program and featured provocative presentations on the use and preservation of historic vessels and maritime art from representatives of the Zuiderzee Museum, USS Olympia, and the Flensburg Maritime Museum.
Thursday afternoon (and again Friday afternoon) provided time for “Master Classes” where attendees could have in-depth discussions with leaders in our field. Thursday’s Masters were Lyles Forbes, on the care and presentation of historic small craft collections, and James Delgado, diving deep into maritime archeology. On Friday, Kevin Sumption would lead a brilliant, fast-paced primer in social media, and Anna Holloway would share her vast experience with interpretive techniques.
Friday’s last formal session dealt (perhaps ironically, perhaps appropriately) with Leadership. Three of our most respected leaders – Kevin Fewster from Greenwich, Stephen White from Mystic Seaport and Marika Hedin from the Vasa – shared their valuable insights into what it will take to lead our museums in the 21st century. In so doing, they underlined one last time the overall theme of the Congress – that we need to constantly be looking forward, not backward, as we preserve and present our maritime heritage to new generations of real and virtual visitors.
As has become an ICMM tradition, the closing dinner was held aboard ship. Although Norfolk/Newport News, Virginia comprises the largest US Navy port in America and is filled with hundreds of huge naval vessels, every last one of those ships was strictly off limits to us. We did the next best thing - heading out among them aboard America’s version of a bateau-mouche. My guess is that our dinner cruise will be remembered as much for the harbor views and the warm conversations as for the band that tried so very hard to get us dancing to contemporary American beats.
All of us here in the US were delighted to have our ICMM colleagues on our shores again, and are looking forward to having our colleagues in Portugal manage the next Congress.
Photographs of the Congress and videos of the papers presented are being prepared for this section of the website.
2007 ICMM Congress
ICMM CONGRESS 2007
Some Congress Papers
Since the dawn of time Malta has been a unique maritime location situated as it is right in the middle of the Mediterranean cross roads. Even the very first inhabitants sailed to Malta from Sicily around 4,000 BC. Later came the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the European Knights of St. John, the French and the British to settle in these islands or to make use of the sheltered harbours of Malta. In fact the very name of Malta originates from the Phoenician word for shelter or protection - Malet - and Malta’s Grand Harbour is one of the best natural deep-water harbours in the world.
Though small in size Malta is great in history.
On these islands you find the remains of more than 6,000 years of human activity. Being a melting pot in the best sense of the word, the architecture, culture and language of Malta have been influenced from many sides, but as we saw for ourselves over the few days of the Congress, the Maltese population has always managed to take the best from everything and mix it into the charming, vivid and strong society that is Malta today.
Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta has also been an important strategic stronghold. Some of the battles for this stronghold has positioned Malta firmly in World History. In 1565 the Turkish Ottoman Empire made an unsuccesful attempt to wrest the island from the Knights of St.John in what was later known as the “Great Siege”.
Another great siege took place during the 2nd World War when Italian and German troops tried to bomb Malta into surrender. For the attacking troops the outcome was just as unsuccessful as 400 years earlier. King George the VI of Britain awarded the George Cross to the island in honour of her brave people and their heroism and devotion.
During the Congress we had the opportunity to visit the historic buildings of Malta - indeed the sessions even took place within some of those wonderful buildings. The magnificent conference centerr in which we enjoyed most of our sessions was built in late 16th Century and served for more than 200 years as the “Sacre Infermeria,” the Holy Infirmary of the Order of St. John. During the week we met or lunched in the Inquisitor’s Palace - built in the 1530's - and at the Malta Maritime Museum which is housed in the former British Naval Bakery, built in the 1840's and Malta’s first building of the industrial revolution.
However, Malta is not only history, architecture and culture. During excursions on Wednesday and the post conference tour to Gozo on Friday. we had an opportunity to see Malta’s countryside, which is also fantastic and very beautiful.
In short: Malta was the perfect location for an ICMM Congress.
On behalf of ICMM I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to the people and organisations in Malta who not only made this possible but who showed us great hospitality and proved themselves to be very professional and efficient organisers.
Now, we came to Malta not only to learn about the fascinating history of Malta but also to work and work hard.
The theme of the Congress was “Maritime Museums - Reaching New Audiences”. The reason for this was a few simple facts. For decades visitors or audiences at maritime museums have stayed reasonably stable. They have generally been school groups, tourists, families and persons related to or within the maritime industry. However, the last group is slowly but surely fading away as the maritime industry is getting still more mechanized with ever larger vessels, more efficient cargo handling et cetera. And as harbours get still more isolated from the cities around them the common knowledge of the sea as a working place and lifestyle is decreasing too. Both developments may lead to a declining interest for maritime museums and what we have to offer. But that is only one side of our challenge.
While we have developed programmes and services over the years - with engaging and dynamic exhibition and interpretation technologies - another challenge has rolled up rather fast. We live in the internet and the virtual age where information flows continually across the globe and allows everyone who is interested to get information via the internet rather than museums.
The few days of the Congress provided us with some answers to these important questions. In order to give us some inspiration we invited two keynote speakers; Sir Neil Cossons – until recently Chairman of English Heritage - and Ken Robinson - Chairman of the Tourism Think Tank and the Visitor Attractions Forum UK.
We also enjoyed a session organized by The Naval Dockyard Society and held three workshops on sponsorship, travelling exhibitions and ship preservation before we finishing the presentations with a series of short papers on a rich variety of themes.
As you can understand, we had a full and rather comprehensive programme.
Morten Hahn-Pedersen, President ICMM.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 15 February 2012 19:24)