Museums for Social Harmony
University Museums and Collections as Recorders of Cultural and Natural Communities Worldwide
UMAC's 10th International Conference, in cooperation with CIPEG (International Committee for Egyptology)
7th - 12th November 2010, Shanghai, China, within the ICOM General Conference
General information: http://www.icom2010.org.cn/icomwbs/webpages/en/index.jsp
As university museums, we have long been charged with the responsibility for preserving, studying, and making accessible to scholars and the public, collections of all kinds. In many cases, our collections are the result of decades, or even centuries, of important university research, excavations, or expeditions. Our faculties have collected everything from rare biological and mineral specimens to lithics and other cultural artifacts, to fine works of art. Most often, their collections end up in our university museums.
As a result, our artifacts, specimens, or works of art may be from cultures that are remote from us in time and location. They also may represent communities worldwide that may be very different from those that surround us today. Our collections sometimes are the unique records of life and cultures that no longer exist. They may record ways of thinking that are very different from the ways of the 21st century.
Frequently, there are scholars and members of the public who recognize the importance of our collections to record cultural and natural communities worldwide. In other situations, our collections are endangered by the fact that the public may not be interested and today's scholars may see little value to their current research in our collections. Younger people, obsessed by technology and social networking may not yet recognize the value of historical collections, and health and financial issues overwhelm some in the older generation of the public, who might be expected to resonate with historical collections. Yet, museums and collections are about preservation, research, and interpretation, not about fads in scholarship or popularity with the public.
In today's society, there are many questions about the collections in our university museums. What is the identity of our collections? Do they record the cultural and natural communities worldwide? Why are our collections important? What do they teach us in the 21st century? What are the best ways we can preserve our collections and promote research and public understanding of them? Do university museums and collections have a special responsibility to preserve extinct or rare life forms, cultures, or ways of thinking? How do we do this? What is our responsibility to collections that today may be seen as elite, distant, or no longer relevant? How have you dealt with these kinds of collections, in terms of preservation, research, or presentation? What are the special problems of these kinds of collections? How can they be made relevant to today's students, scholars and public? These are some of the questions we hope our conference will address.