ICOM Define Methodology (2020-2022)

The ICOM Advisory Council selects the museum definition proposal to be voted in Prague

May 20, 2022

The Advisory Council, composed of the Chairpersons of National and International Committees, Regional Alliances, and Affiliated Organisations, selected the museum definition proposal to bring forward to vote at the Extraordinary General Assembly, which will be held on August 24th during ICOM Prague 2022.

The methodology that resulted in this proposal, carried out by the ICOM Standing Committee for the Museum Definition, Prospect and Potentials (ICOM Define) was based on 4 rounds of consultation, divided into 11 steps with a duration of 18 months. ICOM Define worked intensively on processing the results of Consultation 4 and elaborating the final two proposals, which were put forward to vote on the 91st Session of the Advisory Council.

The proposal selected will be presented to the Executive Board and then voted in Prague during the Extraordinary General Assembly on August 24. Please note that the decision on the adoption of the proposal will not be taken until then.


“A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.


According to the ICOM Statutes, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, on 24 August 2007, the current definition is as follows:

“A museum is 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 purposes of education, study and enjoyment.

 Click here for the full methodology.



ICOM-US Participation Tracked Below

Click here for the full methodology timeline

Consultation Four Submission (due April 10, 2022)

Consultation Three Submission (due September 30, 2021): Key words and concepts by dimension (compiled from ICOM-US member survey feedback) 

Consultation Two Submission (due April 20, 2021): 20 key words and concepts (compiled from ICOM-US member survey feedback)

Consultation One Submission (due January 10, 2021):


ICOM-US Museum Definition Task Force Members:

  • Kathy Dwyer Southern (task force co-chair), Professor, Museum Studies Program at the George Washington University.
  • Diana Pardue (task force co-chair), Director, Museum Services Division Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. ICOM international committee chair, DRMC and ICOM Define Representative.
  • Eric Dorfman, Director & CEO, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and ICOM Executive Board Representative.
  • Bill Eiland, Director, Georgia Museum of Art
  • Lyndel King, Emeritus Director & Chief Curator, Weisman Art Museum.
  • Alejandra Peña, Executive Director, Museo de Arte de Ponce.
  • Kate Quinn, Executive Director, James A. Michener Art Museum.
  • Elizabeth Varner, Director, National Coast Guard Museum and ICOM Define Representative.
  • Rick West, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Autry Museum of the American West (previous member of MDPP2).

Interested in how else to get more involved with this important discussion? Join us at the next ICOM-US Webinar to participate in our series, What is a Museum? An Exploration in Six Parts.