ICOM UK Conference 2024, Belfast

Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme

ICOM UK is the national branch of ICOM in the United Kingdom. It is a gateway to the global museum community and the only UK museum association with a dedicated international focus.

As an organisation ICOM UK promotes intangible heritage and the preservation of material heritage. They develop best practice standards for the world-wide museum industry and, through its global reach and events programme, contributes to the international agenda of museums in the UK.

Each year ICOM UK creates, develops and delivers a conference which reflects contemporary issues in the culture and heritage sector and are uniquely positioned to bring a global element to these discussions.  ICOM UK Conference 2024 will take place in Belfast and will look at Common Ground: the role of museums in divided communities.

Photograph of the Belfast skyline

‘We live in an age of division and discord, with many communities riven by political differences, social inequalities and, in some cases, conflict and its legacy.

This conference will explore the role of museums as important shared spaces, where differences can be ethically discussed and represented, and areas of commonality identified and valued.

Hear from museum professionals from the island of Ireland, the UK and the global museum community, in a city that has been damaged by division but through the ongoing social peace process is embracing the opportunities of the present and looking to a more positive future’.


In April 2024, the ITP team will be travelling to Belfast to take part in the conference and we are delighted that we will be joined by Namrata Sarmah, Freelance Museum Consultant and Researcher (India, ITP 2018); Nourah Sammar, MA Student, Academy of Korean Studies (Palestine, ITP 2009) and Chantal Umuhoza, Curator, Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy (Rwanda, ITP 2018)

We will also be joined by Ma. Yohana Frias, Exhibition Designer, National Museum of the Philippines (Philippines, ITP 2018), for part of the week – Yohana having successfully applied for an ITP Conference Grant 2024.

We are very excited that Chantal will be speaking at the conference.  Her session, Old Wounds: After Conflict will look at how conflict leaves behind a difficult and painful legacy, which is often worked through at a local level. By exploring how different groups are developing the interpretation of their history, this session will explore the parallel processes of continuity and change that characterise societies emerging from conflict.

As well as taking part in the conference, the ITP team has put together a programme of visits and tours, focusing on the theme of divided communities but also giving the opportunity for our fellows to see more of what Belfast has to offer in the field of art, culture and heritage.

During the week we will be….

Setting the scene where we aim to discover and experience first-hand the raw side of historic Belfast City, and its challenging recent history.

Transporting you back in time where we will look at how the cultural sector in Northern Ireland preserves its later history and how it is presented to visitors.

Experiences and Attractions where we will explore the cultural sector in the form of ‘experiences’ and ‘attractions’!

We’ll also been catch-up with our National Museum NI colleagues Louise Smyth, HR Business Partner and Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial.

By attending the ICOM UK Conference we aim to offer our ITP fellows further platforms to network and gain knowledge beyond what is traditionally offered through the Annual Programme. Our aim is for fellows to attend a new range of skills-building sessions, to hear from colleagues globally about current practices and projects, to engage in debates around the future of museums and their audiences, and to create networks that may be outside our usual remit.

The ICOM UK 2024 Conference is a collaboration between ICOM UK, NMDC and National Museums NI, with support from the Northern Ireland Museums Council, the Irish Museums Association, ICOM Ireland and Barker Langham.