ICOM UK – Working Internationally Conference 2016


The Whitworth Art Gallery. Credit: Charlesdrakew. Creative Commons.

Last week the ITP team took a journey north to Manchester to attend ICOM UK’s Working Internationally Conference at the Whitworth Art Gallery, and to meet with our UK partners Manchester Museum and Manchester Art Gallery to discuss the 2016 ITP.

The conference was commemorated with a beautiful coating of snow over Whitworth Park and the gallery building. While sitting safely (and warmly) inside, we heard from heritage experts across the UK discussing international projects and advice for future partnerships.

While focusing on working internationally during a financially difficult period for UK museums, there was a wonderfully positive and outward looking approach from all speakers. There was also a common theme of helping staff and employees to make their own, personal connections internationally, as an essential part of their development.

Carol Scott, Chair of ICOM UK, began by emphasising the need for partnerships that help us to “work smart and innovate”, using creativity and enhancing professional skills.

Maria Balshaw, Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, gave an inspiring keynote speech about the huge importance of close personal relationships to the success of global collaborations. This truly supports the mission of the International Training Programme – without strong friendships we cannot achieve sustainable and meaningful partnerships.

A discussion about on-going events and projects for “UK India 2017” from Arts Council South Asia called for smaller and local museums to join in and get involved. According to Matthew Plant, the aim of this cultural exchange year is to “increase visibility and appreciation of contemporary UK and India, to give greater depth, relevance to our relationship”. This was particularly relevant, given our successful Mumbai conference last year.

On the more practical side of things, ICOM-UK’s Dana Andrew, Working Internationally Regional Project Co‐ordinator, shared plans for the ICOM-UK website to be a “one stop shop” for funding advice, case studies, and information sharing. The new site is really impressive and clearly a lot of work has gone into making ICOM-UK a vital resource for museum workers in the UK and worldwide. Well done Dana!

Sally McDonald from the Museum of Science and Industry looked at the local impacts of international projects, and a panel discussion with the Science Museum and Manchester Museum focused on the challenges and wonderful results of working with Russian institutions.

Finally, a call to look beyond national borders was made by Nick Merriman, Director of Manchester Museum, who said that despite economic uncertainty and funding cuts, “working internationally can be a form of resilience in financially tough times”.

The full programme for the day can be found here: http://bit.ly/1U6mE7j and presentations from all speakers will be added to ICOM UK’s website in the near future.

ICOM is a great way to network with other museum professionals, find useful information and share experiences – take a look at the links below to find out more:





And ICOM’s next major international conference will be in Milan from 3-9 July!