The International Council of Museums (ICOM) held its annual conference in Taipei yesterday, bringing together curators and other museum professionals from around the world to discuss how to keep museums relevant and interesting in the age of globalization.
The conference, titled "New Roles and Missions of Museums," was hosted by the Council for Cultural Affairs at the Taipei International Convention Center.
The conference sought to "increase [Taiwanese] museums' self-consciousness and the concept of product management, so that the quality of the museum industry in Taiwan can be raised," Minister of Cultural Affairs Chiu Kun-liang (
Chinese Association of Museums Chairwoman Lin Mun-lee (林曼麗) told the participants that Taiwanese museums' task in the new millennium was to "preserve the distinctive features of local cultures [in Taiwan] in an increasingly globalized Internet-reliant world."
Academic exchanges like the conference were helpful to Taiwan in fulfilling such a task, she added.
What specific challenges do Taiwanese museums face? Meredith Blake, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Museums Association, said that a lack of funding was a common theme among museums in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Governments love to pay lip service to the preservation and celebration of culture, but are not so keen to put up the cash to those ends," Blake said.
"Also, Asia-Pacific cultures are `living cultures,' meaning that their artifacts tend to be organic and practical and are not easily preserved, especially in a tropical environment," Blake said.
Gary Edson, Director for Advanced Study of Museum Science and Heritage Management, said that the region was experiencing "rapid social change and development," which pose unique challenges to museums as they must keep up with the pace of development to remain relevant.
"Museums in this region are trying to hold on to what makes the cultures that they reflect so unique, while the cultures themselves are changing," Edson said.
In a pamphlet entitled Old is New, the National Palace Museum advertised its Internet services at the conference, boasting an online presence that allows users to view images of museum collections in cyberspace.
Lin touted the museum's digital interface at the conference as a reflection of new aesthetic sensibilities in an increasingly digital era.