Previous COMCOL Conferences

2020 Annual Conference – online

From 9-12 September COMCOL will have their 2020 annual conference online,  jointly organized with ICOM Russia. The title of the conference is Collecting Diversity: Divergence as Dialogue.  Museums can play a crucial role in the waves of societal struggles that are visible and dominating many public discussions these days. They have the capacity to reformulate social, cultural, and environmental values and can function as mirrors or sounding boards for their societies. They have the possibility to echo the problems of the contexts in which they are immersed and to focus on fostering diverse values for better social co-existence.

Below the outline of the program and the registration links for each session. (so be aware that each session has it’s own dedicated registration link)

WEDNESDAY, September 9

13.00-15.00 (CEST) -Session 1: Collecting Diversity: Divergence as Dialogue How can museums navigate through the politics of collecting in a way that will represent, respect, and relate to the multiplicity of today? In this session, we will be bringing two great professionals together to each reflect on these questions and more from their own context.

Keynotes: Julia Kupina, Ph.D., Director, Russian Museum of Ethnography, (St-Petersburg, Russia) and Armando Perla, Head of Human Rights, Holocaust Museum Montreal, (Montreal, Canada)

15.30-16.30 (CEST) Session 2: Matters of Representation Critical reflections on how collections have been created and how objects have been (re)presented have taught us to revisit our practice. How can institutions today collect, present, interpret, and share the variety of meanings that these objects bear today for the future in a respectful and inclusive manner?

17:00-18:30 (CEST) Session 3: What tells the Collection Collections have their own history. What do the collections that were created in the past tell us today? Who created the collections? For what purpose?

17:00-18:30 (CEST) Session 4: Ethics of collecting  Museums have a responsibility to reconsider the ethical dimensions of their collecting methods and the ethics of the collections they already hold. Collections often include contested objects and raise questions around colonialism, representation, and repatriation, sacral conservation, categorization, and multivocality. How can museums deal with these matters? 

19:00-20:00 (CEST) Mingling session 1 Finish out the first day of conferencing with some fun. Join us at the first-ever COMCOL professional speed-dating. Bring a drink and get to know colleagues from all over the world while talking collections.


THURSDAY, September 10

11:45-12:45 (CEST) Mingling session 2  Start your conference day by getting to know your fellow attendees. Join us in discussions around some of the hot topics of current collection practice and share experiences and opinions.

13:00-14:30 (CEST) Session 5: Using Collections to make New Connections  Do museums do enough to open their collections to everyone they are relevant for? Do they answer to their societies’ needs and demands? 

15:00 -16:30 (CEST) Session 6: Contemporary Ways of Collecting Museums have the responsibility to collect and show collections in an inclusive way. How is this done? How can museums collect and preserve stories and objects that showcase our super-diverse societies? How do museums work in an inclusive way with contemporary collecting and collections?

17:00-17:00 (CEST) Session 7: Digital Collections to Share What can digital collections (whether born-digital or digitized objects) offer to us as museum professionals and to our audiences? What are the possibilities of connecting to more people? Or to connect to other collections and make new narratives?


FRIDAY, September 11

13:00-14:00 (CEST) COMCOL members meeting This is the moment for our members to learn more about what COMCOL has been doing in the past year and the plans we have for the coming years, so please do join us. It is also a perfect moment for you to give your input on what you would like and expect from us. Not a COMCOL member but interested to become one – please feel welcome as well. We are happy to tell you more about our (net)work.

14:00-16:00 (CEST) Young Professionals Network Kick-off session:  The aim of this workshop is to introduce an initiative undertaken by COMCOL to encourage more young professionals to engage with the work of ICOM and COMCOL. The International Young Museum Professionals Network will be presented and interactive participation will be encouraged in order to explore future directions and interests to be taken onboard. All young members (but also non-members) of COMCOL are invited to attend!

SATURDAY, September 12

13:00-15:00 (CEST) Workshop on Heritage of Religion A joint workshop of the Jewish Museum Berlin and COMCOL on Object Interpretations: After the Destruction and Transformation of Religion. Please note that the maximum of participants is limited to 30!


Additional Documents:

Here the detailed overview of the program

2019 Kyoto

In 2019 COMCOL had a pre-conference in Nara from 29-31 August before heading off to Kyoto for the General ICOM conference: Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition from 1-7 September.

The Call for paper for this conference can be found here. Please note that the call has closed.

For more on the triennial, registrations and travel info visit the ICOM Kyoto website here

Get leaflet

2018 Winnipeg

The COMCOL’s 2018 Annual Conference was celebrated in North America for the first time. We partnered with the Federation of International Human Rights Museum (FIHRM), the City of Human Rights Education (TheCoHRE) and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), who was also our host.

During the three days, the presentations and panels tackled a vast array of issues around the challenges of acknowledging events in the past to bring about change for the future. The cases presented examples from all over the world on meaningful collaborations between museum professionals and their various communities, from indigenous peoples to the LGBTQ+ community.

Together we explored how collections and collecting can promote human rights, equality, provoke empathy, and facilitate meaningful dialogue leveraging the soft powers of museums.

The conference started with a traditional ceremony performed by Elder Kelly to honor and recognize the land of the five indigenous inhabitants: the Anishinaabe, Mushkegowuk, Dakota, Dene, and Métis, on which the museum is situated. After which we had the opening speeches from Mayor Brian Bowman, the president of CMHR Dr. John Young, David Flemming (FIHRM) and Danielle Kuijten (COMCOL).

2017 Umea

COMCOL’ s 2017 Annual Conference was jointly organized with DOSS (Contemporary Collecting Sweden, previous Samdok), Norsam (Nordic network for contemporary collecting and research at museums), and ICOM Sweden. Ten years after the Connecting Collecting conference in Stockholm, which was the starting point for COMCOL, we returned to Sweden. From 5–9 December we will be hosted at the Västerbottens Museum in Umeå.

The contemporary collecting collaboration Samdok brought in the 1970:s innovation to museum work. Samdok argued over the years for a more problem-oriented way of working, studying the present day to arrive at descriptions of social and cultural processes, emphasizing the importance of both the historical and contemporary contexts. In the course of time, Samdok became a forum for scholarly discussions on contemporary culture and society, a forum for professional development and further education, sharing experiences of the empirical, methodological and theoretical dimensions of the creation of collecting and collections.

During the conference we connected to the legacy of Samdok, focusing on collecting the present; connecting the present with historical collections and collections with communities. We have a closer look at good practices in museums concerning collecting and collections, practices that are possible to develop further. Furthermore, we touched upon collections and difficult narratives. As our diverse societies today put different demands on our collections, collecting strategies and presentations, it has become impossible to speak about cultural heritage without asking the questions: Which heritage? Whose?  So how can (contested) collections be revisited? How can we create democratic collections? Which new approaches to museum ethics can be used, and how can contemporary practices and collecting address or add to the discussion around difficult heritage?

See the full program here. On our Facebook page you can find the pictures.

The Call for Papers can be found here. Please note that the call has closed.

2016 Milan

COMCOL Annual Conference and Meeting 2016 took place in Milan, Italy, in conjunction with ICOM’s General Conference 3-9 July. COMCOL’s own conference was organized in partnership with ICFA (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Fine Art) and started with a pre-conference meeting from 30 June in Bassano del Grappa.

You can download the full program here

and the minutes can be downloaded here

2015 Seoul

COMCOL’s 2015 annual conference was organized in cooperation with ICOM Korea and hosted by The National Folk Museum of Korea. The conference was dedicated to the sustainability of collecting and collections. The theme links up with the theme of International Museum Day, “Museums for a sustainable society”, but will focus on the sustainability of the role of museums (and other heritage institutions) and their collections itself.

The most generally accepted definition of sustainability is the one given in the Brundtland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) saying “Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In its brochure, Sustainability, and museums. Your chance to make a difference (2008), the UK Museums Association discusses how “concepts of sustainability have the potential to help museums improve their service to society, to make decisions about collections management, to secure long-term financial stability – and, of course, to serve future generations appropriately”. Speaking about collections, the Museums Association suggests that to flourish sustainability, museums should “acknowledge the legacy contributed by previous generations and pass on a better legacy of collections, information, and knowledge to the next generation”, and “manage collections well so that they will be a valued asset for future generations, not a burden”. In its conference, COMCOL will explore the meaning of this in terms of the composition and structure of collections. What specific methodological approaches towards collection development does sustainability require?

2014 COMCOL Celje

The 2014 annual conference of COMCOL was held from 3-6 December in Celje, in Slovenia. The theme of the conference was: Collecting and collections in times of war or political and social change.

It was the aim of COMCOL to discuss the theory, practice, and ethics of collection development. One of the issues being the social context of collection development, in particular, the impact of prevailing ideologies. The 2014 annual conference was the last of a series of three conferences in which COMCOL explored this issue from different perspectives. In 2012 (Cape Town) we discussed how the concept of utopia influenced (and influences) the forming of collections. In 2013 (Rio de Janeiro) we discussed the re-interpretation of older collections, focusing on exhibitions as a medium for re-interpretation. In 2014 we explored the triangular relationship between ideology, the institutional mission, and the collection profile. In particular, we explored how museum missions are influenced by changes in political ideologies and regimes, and to what extent collection profiles are adapted to the new missions.

If you are interested you can view here the program

2013 COMCOL Rio de Janeiro

COMCOL’s third annual meeting was organized in conjunction with the General Conference of ICOM. The COMCOL meetings took place on 12-15 August 2013. The general theme of these meetings was: The re-interpretation and re-usages of (older) collections and their value for contemporary society. On a joint day with ICMAH, ICME, ICR and ICOM Korea, this theme was specified as “Focus on collecting: contemporary collecting for reinterpreting (older) collections”. Together with MINOM and the Museu da Maré a workshop was organized in the museum as a follow-up of the workshop in District Six Museum held during the Cape Town 2012 conference.

First reflections by Peter van Mensch
article by Paula dos Santos about Museum da Maré