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Draft Recommendation concerning the Protection

and Promotion of Museums, their Diversity and their
Role in Society
The General Conference,
Considering that museums share some of the fundamental missions of the Organisation, as
stipulated in its Constitution, including its contribution to the wide diffusion of culture, and the
education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace, the foundation of the intellectual and
moral solidarity of mankind, full and equal opportunities for education for all, in the
unrestricted pursuit of objective truth, and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge,
Also considering that one of the functions of the Organization, as laid down in the
Constitution, is to give fresh impulse to popular education and to the spread of culture: By
collaborating with Members, at their request, in the development of educational activities; By
instituting collaboration among the nations to advance the ideal of equality of educational
opportunity without regard to race, sex or any distinctions, economic or social; and to
maintain, increase and diffuse knowledge,
Attached to culture in its diverse forms in time and space, to the benefit that people and
human societies draw from this diversity, and to the need to strategically integrate culture in
its diversity in national and international development policies, in the interest of communities,
peoples and nations,
Affirming that the preservation, study and transmission of cultural and natural, tangible and
intangible heritage, in movable and immovable dimensions, is of great importance for all
human societies, for intercultural dialogue among peoples, for social cohesion, and for
sustainable development,
Reaffirming that the museum can effectively contribute towards accomplishing these tasks,
as stated in the 1960 Recommendation concerning the Most Effective Means of Rendering
Museums Accessible to Everyone,
Also reaffirming that museums contribute to the application of cultural rights, as defined by
Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 15 of the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
Considering that they also play an ever-increasing role in stimulating creativity, providing
opportunities for creative and cultural industries thus contributing to material and spiritual
well-being of world citizens,
Considering that it is the responsibility of every State to protect the cultural and natural
heritage, both tangible and intangible, movable and immovable, in the territory under its
jurisdiction, and to support the actions of museums to that end,

UNESCO Recommendation for Museums ICOM Draft Text, 22 January 2015

Recalling that a corpus of UNESCO and other international standard-setting instruments,
including conventions, recommendations and declarations, exists on the subject of the role of
museums, all of which remain valid1,
Taking into account the magnitude of socio-economic and political changes that have
affected the role and diversity of museums since the UNESCO Recommendation of 1960,
Desiring to supplement and extend the application of the standards and principles laid down
in existing international instruments referring to the place and role of museums, in favour of
cultural and natural heritage, in its tangible and intangible forms, movable and immovable
dimensions, and to the related roles and responsibilities,
Having before it proposals concerning the Recommendation concerning the Protection and
Promotion of Museums, their Diversity and their Role in Society,

Adopt this Recommendation on the XX day of November 2015.

The General Conference recommends that Member States should apply the following
provisions by taking whatever legislative or other steps may be required to give effect, within
their respective territories under their jurisdiction, to the principles and norms set forth in this


The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954), and its two
Protocols (1954 and 1999);
The Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of
Ownership of Cultural Property 1970;
The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972);
The UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995);
The Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001);
The Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003);
The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005);
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
The Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations (UNESCO, 1956);
The Recommendation concerning the Most Effective Means of Rendering Museums Accessible to Everyone
(UNESCO, 1960);
The Recommendation on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Export, Import and Transfer of
Ownership of Cultural Property (UNESCO, 1964);
The Recommendation concerning the Protection, at National Level, of the Cultural and Natural Heritage
(UNESCO, 1972);
The Recommendation concerning the International Exchange of Cultural Property (UNESCO, 1976);
The Recommendation for the Protection of Movable Cultural Property (UNESCO, 1978);
The Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore (UNESCO, 1989);
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949);
The UNESCO Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Cooperation (1966);
The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity 2001;
The UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage (2003);
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).

UNESCO Recommendation for Museums ICOM Draft Text, 22 January 2015

We live in a time of unprecedented climate, demographic, and technological change
in humanity, with their repercussions on culture and the environment.
Our relationship to culture and nature and, in particular, our relationship to heritage
and the development of knowledge is being singularly affected. The rapid changes occurring
throughout the world pose a constant challenge to societies, including their relationship to
history and the preservation of their environment and its tangible and intangible testimonies.
The protection and promotion of cultural and natural diversity has emerged as a major
challenge of the 21st century. In this respect, museums constitute one of the primary
institutions wherein tangible and intangible testimonies of cultures of humanity are protected
and promoted. Since the dawn of humanity, humankind has maintained a specific relation to
with reality, by selecting a certain number of objects, both tangible and intangible, and by
studying and presenting them to current and future generations. This principle has been
materialised by the establishment of museums open to the public and dedicated to study,
education and enjoyment.
Museums have become a popular phenomenon shared around the world, particularly
since the second half of the 20th century; their number has practically tripled in a half-century.
By presenting themselves as places for cultural transmission, learning, discussion and
training, they play an important role in education, social cohesion and sustainable
development. Beyond their role in society, by opening themselves up to all audiences, they
also contribute to the development of tourism, thereby constituting an important factor for
economic development.
Museums are recognized as contributing to all forms of education, formal, informal
and lifelong learning, in a variety of subjects. Furthermore, museums have great potential to
raise awareness of the public on the benefits of heritage, on its value and importance for
societies, thus responsibility of all citizens to contribute to their custody and transmission.
This Recommendation clarifies the role of museums, and addresses the importance
of protecting and promoting them so they can play their full development role in society and
its environment, including the protection of heritage, the protection and promotion of cultural
diversity, the transmission of scientific knowledge, the development of educational policy,
lifelong learning and social cohesion, and the development of the creative and tourism

I. Definition and diversity of museums

In this Recommendation, "museum" is defined as a non-profit, permanent institution in
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 purpose of education, study and enjoyment2. As such, museums

This definition is the one given by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), which brings
together, at an international level, the museum phenomenon in all of its diversity and transformations
through time and space

UNESCO Recommendation for Museums ICOM Draft Text, 22 January 2015

present themselves as institutions that are particularly representative of the natural and
cultural diversity of humanity and the issues related to it.
Museums conserve and present collections. In this recommendation, collection is
defined as a set of cultural and natural properties, tangible and intangible, past and present
whose different elements cannot be separated without damaging the coherence of the set
and whose value is greater than the sum of the individual values of the elements of which it
is composed. A museum collection is a collection whose objects are included in the museum
In this recommendation, heritage is defined as a group of tangible and intangible
resources that people select and identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and
expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions, deserving of
protection, enhancement and transmission to future generations.
II. Issues for museums in society
Existing UNESCO and other international instruments recognise the importance and
role of museums in the protection of natural and cultural heritage, both tangible and
intangible, and in their overall accessibility to the public. In this regard, museum collections
should benefit from the protective measures granted to cultural heritage in these instruments.
Museums participate in the development and transmission of knowledge, education
and lifelong learning.
Museums are currently confronted with considerable changes, related to those of the
societies in which they have developed, which could force them to redefine themselves in the
coming years, at the risk of seeing some of their missions called into question and their
diversity restricted; these are the challenges presented below.
Globalisation has led to an unprecedented increase in the international movement of
museum professionals, visitors, collection pieces and sources of funding. These movements
are leading to new management practices but also greater expectations on the part of
stakeholders. They could also lead to the creation of very large museums that attract millions
of visitors and have access to considerable resources, while smaller museums could remain
under-resourced to fulfil their basic missions. Another effect of globalisation is the possible
standardisation of museums, their collections and their business models, all tied to a single
international model, at the risk of seeing their diversity disappear.
Museums relation with economy and quality of life
Museums can be major economic actors in society, both directly and indirectly.
Directly, they have widely expanded their income-generating activities. Indirectly, they
participate in the tourism economy and can contribute to the quality of life of communities
and the regions in which they are located. More generally, they promote the development of
the creative economy.

UNESCO Recommendation for Museums ICOM Draft Text, 22 January 2015

The museums ties with the market economy, along with economic factors, have
forced museums to increase their income-generating activities, which could detrimentally
affect their primary functions preservation, research and communication. The benefits of
such activities, while of the utmost importance for society, cannot be expressed in financial
Social role
The social role of the museum has a long tradition dating back to the Declaration of
Santiago, Chile (1972). Modern museums are increasingly viewed in all countries as playing
a key role in the social system and as a factor in social integration. In this sense, they can
help communities face profound changes in society, including those leading to the rise in
social inequality, the impoverishment of some classes in society and the breakdown of social
Museums are vital public spaces that address all classes of society and can therefore
play a leading role in the development of social ties and cohesion, and in reflecting on
collective identities. Museums present themselves as places that are particularly open to all
and are highly sensitive to the idea of providing access to everyone; in particular, this entails
those who are the most fragile and most alienated and who, due to financial reasons,
physical difficulties or education, do not normally visit cultural or natural sites. They constitute
places of reflection and transformation for the development of human rights and gender
equality within society. As an agent for social inclusion, the museum also constitutes a
specific medium for questioning and discussing current societal challenges.
Digital technologies
Museums have quickly adapted to the development of information and
communication technologies. The changes brought about by these technologies are
considerable, both for the economy and social relations and, more generally, global culture.
The technological transformation of our societies offers extraordinary opportunities in terms
of the preservation, study and transmission of heritage. It also brings the risk of a division
between more technologically advanced institutions and those that are unable to keep up
with technological developments, along with people who do not have access to or training in
using these tools.

III. Primary functions of museums

The preservation of cultural and natural heritage is one of the museums three
primary functions. Preservation comprises activities related to acquisition, collection
management, analysis of risks and development of emergency plans, security, preventive
and curative conservation, and restoration of museum objects. Member States are invited to
support an active preservation policy allowing museums to protect and pass down tangible
and intangible heritage to future generations.

A key component of collection management in museums is the implementation and
management of a professional inventory and control of collections. An inventory is an

UNESCO Recommendation for Museums ICOM Draft Text, 22 January 2015

essential tool that may be used to protect museums, to prevent and fight illicit trafficking, and
help them fulfil their role in society. It also eases the mobility of collections between
museums. Member States should take appropriate measures to ensure that the compiling of
an inventory based on international standards is a priority in the museums established in the
territory under their jurisdiction. Digitalization of museum collections might be of help in this
perspective but should not be considered as replacement to the conservation priorities of
physical properties.
Research, including the study of collections, is the second primary function of
museums. It is only through real understanding based on the collections of museums and
other institutions that the full value of collections can be realised and offered to the public.
Member States should therefore encourage and support research activities carried out in the
museums established in the territory under their jurisdiction.
Communication is the third principle function of museums. Communication activities
include the exhibition and interpretation of permanent collections, the organisation of
temporary exhibitions and public events, publication, education, and other interactions with
the public.
Communication policies should consider integration, access and social inclusion, and
be conducted in collaboration with the public, including groups that do not normally visit
museums. Museum actions are also strengthened by the actions of the public and
communities in their favour. Collaborative and participative efforts between museums,
communities and the public should therefore be strongly encouraged.

IV. Policies
Museums must observe applicable national and local laws, and should take note of
the principles of international instruments on the protection and promotion of cultural and
natural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Museums must also take into account the
primary ethical and professional standards established by the professional museum
community. Therefore, Member States are strongly encouraged to ensure that the role of
museums in society is exercised in accordance with legal and professional standards in the
territories under their jurisdiction.

Member States should take all appropriate measures to ensure the protection and
promotion of museums located in the territories under their jurisdiction, by supporting and
developing those institutions in the respect of the primary function of museums. Therefore,
the development of the human, physical and financial resources needed for them to function
should be considered a priority.

The diversity of museums and the heritage for which they are responsible constitute
their greatest asset. This diversity extends to the ways in which museums carry out their
UNESCO Recommendation for Museums ICOM Draft Text, 22 January 2015

primary functions of preservation, research and communication. Member states are
encouraged to protect and promote this diversity, while encouraging museums to draw on
quality criteria defined and promoted by national and international museum communities.
Good practices for the functioning, protection and promotion of museums and of their
diversity and role in society have been recognised by national and international museum
networks. These good practices are continually updated to reflect innovations in the field.
In this respect, the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums constitutes the most widely shared
reference. Member states are encouraged to promote the adoption and dissemination of
these and other good practices and to use them to inform the development of standards,
museum policies and national legislation.

The effective functioning of museums is directly influenced by the public and private
funding mechanisms put in place for their support. Member States should strive to ensure a
clear vision, planning, and adequate funding for museums and a harmonious balance among
the different funding mechanisms to enable them to carry out their mission to the benefit of
society. The functions of a museum are also influenced by new technologies and their
growing role in everyday life. These technologies have great potential for promoting
museums throughout the world, but they also constitute potential barriers for people and
museums that do not have access to them or the knowledge and skills to use them
effectively. Member States should strive to provide full access to these technologies by both
museums and individuals.
The spirit of the Recommendation of 1960 Concerning the Most Effective Means of
Rendering Museums Accessible to Everyone remains a priority in creating a lasting place for
museums in society. The social role of museums, along with the preservation of heritage,
constitutes their fundamental purpose. Member States should strive to include these
principles in the laws concerning the museums established in the territories under their
One of the most effective ways of protecting and promoting museums, their diversity
and their role in society is cooperation among themselves and with other institutions
responsible for the protection and promotion of culture, heritage and education. Member
States should therefore encourage cooperation among museums at local, regional, national
and international levels, including their participation in professional networks and
associations that foster such cooperation.

UNESCO Recommendation for Museums ICOM Draft Text, 22 January 2015

Draft Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums, their Diversity and
their Role in Society

Explanations of the title, structure and content of the Recommendation

This notice aims to explain in the fullest terms the choices behind the current text. ICOM, which has
actively worked on drafting the Recommendation, sought to make the best choices most likely to be
supported by all Member States. These choices were made in order not only to make the text as
clear and as functional as possible, but also as easy as possible for Member States to apply.

Title of the Recommendation

The original title of the Recommendation, based on which the initial meetings were organised, was:
Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections. The
change in the title was proposed for the following reasons:
1. The idea of collections, as originally intended, appeared too broad; the concept could include
both private and public collections, as well as collections of anything ranging from
matchboxes to archaeological masterpieces. The term collection could therefore have
either been removed or specified (heritage collection). However, it currently seems difficult
for the States to reach a consensus in precisely defining what could constitute a heritage
collection beyond those found in museums. It was therefore preferable to include the issue
of collections within the functions of the museum.
2. In addition, a recommendation on museums is of fundamental importance. Dedicating a
recommendation to another subject, which is indeed related to some extent, and less
institutional, could be to the detriment of the main focus of the present recommendation:
the museum.
3. However, two basic characteristics of the museum, which are at the heart of the
recommendation, have been added to the title. The diversity of museums refers to the
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, of
which museums are a major tool. The educational, social and economic role of museums in
society is also a factor that seems important to highlight in the title.

Structure of the text

4. The structure of the text is largely shaped by the structure of other UNESCO
recommendations. The Preamble lists all of the principles already found in texts approved by
the Member States, on which the Recommendation could be based. This also implies that
the Recommendation will not reiterate principles already discussed in other UNESCO
normative instruments.

Explanations of the title, structure and content of the Recommendation

Draft Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums, their Diversity and
their Role in Society
5. A large body of texts, conventions, recommendations, and, in some cases, declarations,
exists as a basis for the international community. The list we have given is not exhaustive.
We did not include regional declarations or those supported by a small number of States.
6. We sought to present:
a. On the one hand, the basic functions of the museum, by emphasizing certain
elements that appear to be at the heart of museum work, such as carrying out an
inventory of collections. A broad consensus (the PRC model) aims to group the
functions of the museum into three entities: preservation, research and
b. On the other hand, new issues for the museum, of which we present three: its
relation with the economy, its social role and technology.
7. We did not include a number of issues which are already the focus of other conventions,
a. Illicit trafficking, which is amply covered by the conventions and recommendations of
1970, 1956, 1995 and 2001
b. The protection of collections and museums in the event of armed conflict, which is
the focus of the conventions and protocols of 1954 and 1999.

8. The definition given of the museum is that used by ICOM. We stress that it is important to
use this definition, which enjoys a broad global consensus. Presenting the museum as a nonprofit institution does not mean that it may not conduct activities to fund its own operations,
but rather that its end goal is not that of a for-profit enterprise.

9. In order to make this Recommendation as relevant and as effective as possible, we had to
focus on a targeted number of actions that would not require excessive means to implement.
10. Some Member States may find most of the issues relatively standard, but it must be stressed
that museum infrastructure (inventory, preservation, communication, etc.) and
corresponding principles continue to vary widely among countries. It should be recalled that
respecting these major principles remains essential to the proper conduct of museum
11. We also had to choose a certain number of principles that could win the approval of the
entire community of Member States.
a. The economic context in which museums operate. This dimension is important in all
countries, and even more so in times of austerity. However, it is very different
depending on the size and location of museums.
b. The social role of museums and their participative and community functions.
c. The development of digital technologies, the Internet, etc.
Explanations of the title, structure and content of the Recommendation

Draft Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums, their Diversity and
their Role in Society
12. However, we did not believe that the topics presented below could achieve a consensus
among all Member States:
a. We did not wish to present a rigid, standardized framework inside the
Recommendation. We refer to existing international standards, particularly those
advocated by ICOM, but many countries still have a relatively different view of
museum standards (conservation, access, inventory, etc.).
b. The issues of education and access are amply covered in the Recommendation of
1960, to which we directly refer.
c. The issue of the link between museum collections and instruments adopted by
UNESCO that aim to protect heritage is specified in (10).
d. We believed that the issue of the ownership of collections, as well as the classifying
of collections, was a subject on which a consensus could not be reached among
Member States. For it to be included, a significant number of countries must already
have addressed this issue in their own national legislation.
e. For the same reason, we believe that copyright issues related to the digitization of
collections should be addressed in other instruments especially dedicated to these
f. The text does mention the issue of the mobility of collections; we did not present it
at the centre of the Recommendation's structure and content, as this issue is not
sufficiently shared in the same way among Member States. Furthermore, it does not
directly concern the subject of promoting and protecting museums, but rather that
of knowledge sharing.
g. The issues of museum management and administration are discussed (27), but the
technical nature of these issues and differences between Member States and the size
of museums make it difficult to more precisely specify the management techniques
that should be used. Best practices in this area are also presented and shared within
various networks and national and international groups of museum professionals.
h. The issue of the role of museums with respect to indigenous communities is not
directly addressed, as not only does it not arise in the same way for all Member
States, but it is also a subject that deserves specific attention in a form other than
this text. However, this issue is amply discussed in the ICOM Code of Ethics, to which
the Recommendation refers.
i. A large number of more specific issues concerning museum funding, studies,
questions of provenance, etc., are also amply discussed in the ICOM Code of Ethics
for Museums. It is for this reason that the Recommendation refers to it explicitly, and
because these are also issues that could be the subject of texts dedicated to these
subjects alone.

Explanations of the title, structure and content of the Recommendation