Icom Dubai 2025: Prague event offers insight on what to expect

The Icom flag is formally passed on to the UAE in landmark moment

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed, chairwoman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and member of the Dubai Council, at the conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo: Wam
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As the world's cultural leaders prepare to leave Prague after the 26th International Council of Museums General Conference wraps up, Dubai is getting ready to host its own event in 2025.

Following a week of events under the theme The Future of Museums, Icom Prague ends on Sunday, and the host city has now formally passed on the flag to Dubai.

The Icom flag, a symbolic baton entrusted to the organising committee of the next Icom General Conference, was formally passed on to Dubai during the Flag Relay Ceremony held at the National Museum in Prague.

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed, chairwoman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and member of the Dubai Council, and head of the Icom delegation in the UAE, said Dubai's Icom journey has officially begun following this landmark moment.

"It is an incredibly historic moment for Dubai as our city has become the first city in the Menasa region to host Icom. Winning the bid to host Icom would not have been possible without the support of our wise leadership and the work done by all cultural entities and our partners in Dubai and the UAE over the years to develop and enrich our cultural offerings as an emirate and as a nation."

Sheikha Latifa has spent this week meeting with Arab museum experts to discuss areas for collaboration, key challenges and opportunities. She commended members of Icom Arab for representing the region on the global stage, stating: “We must all come together as Arab nations to preserve and elevate our region’s rich cultural heritage and further develop our museums."

The event is a cultural hub where international art leaders devise solutions to the challenges facing museums and global heritage.

Sheikha Latifa said: “The UAE recognises the importance of museums as vital centres for knowledge and is committed to developing them, as it understands their significance in the wider creative and cultural sector.

“Icom 2025, to be hosted in Dubai, will serve as an opportunity for the Menasa region to draw the world’s attention to what this region has and is capable of.”

What is Icom?

Icom is an international organisation of museums and museum professionals dedicated to the research, conservation and communication of the world’s natural and cultural heritage.

Every three years, Icom gathers the international museum community in a different host city and focuses on a critical theme to promote international cooperation through a range of cultural exchanges.

From debates, round tables and panels to networking events and cultural activities, participants come together with the shared mission of exploring past, present and future realities.

Icom Prague 2022

The 26th Icom General Conference, being hosted in Prague, Czech Republic, started last Saturday and ends on Sunday.

This year’s theme explores a number of tangible and intangible challenges facing the museum community.

This includes their relationships with society, resilience, leadership and new technologies and this year's event marks the first time the conference has been held in hybrid format.

More than 3,500 participants from 123 countries have met, with keynote speakers including Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian, as well as the Ugandan climate and environmental rights activist Hilda Flavia Nakabuye.

Icom Prague 2022 highlights

For the first time in 50 years, a new definition on what a museum is has been approved.

After an 18-month process, hundreds of museum professionals from 126 National Committees agreed on: “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.”

This definition reframes the traditional notion of the museum as an institution that cares for and displays a collection of artefacts of artistic, cultural, historical or scientific merit, available for public viewing. Now, museums will take on a more active role in recognising the importance of inclusivity, community participation and sustainability.

Icom Dubai 2025

In November, the UAE was announced as the host of Icom 2025, to be held in Dubai, beating bids from Sweden and Russia.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted at the time, on the importance of Dubai hosting the global event.

“Dubai's victory to host the largest global conference on museums, Icom 2025, with the attendance of 119 countries, covering 20,000 international museums, gives a strong impetus to the country's cultural sector,” he tweeted.

“Our international museums in our beloved emirate and our national museums throughout the country will lead the global debate on the future of museums at this huge international conference.”

As the first Icom to be held in the region, the conference is expected to strengthen the UAE’s position as a centre of innovation, particularly in the fields of cultural heritage and conservation.

It comes at a time when the UAE is rapidly adding to its array of museums; notably with the recent Museum of the Future and the coming Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum, among others.

What will the theme be in three years?

Building on Prague 2022, the 2025 theme will be The Future of Museums in Rapidly Changing Communities. It will explore future uncertainty, change and recovery, in the context of museums and the communities they support. It will also look at how museums can be active agents for positive change.

With sub-themes including accessibility, the digital experience, sustainability, inclusion collaboration and cooperation, Icom UAE will explore how museums can integrate with the community and create a better future through recovery and transparency.

Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi collection — in pictures

Updated: August 28, 2022, 10:57 AM