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Medea Ekner now confirmed ICOM director general

After turmoil, International Council of Museums confirms new director, Art Review, 4 June 2024

Medea Ekner. Courtesy ICOM.

Medea Ekner has been confirmed as the director general of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) having headed up the organisation for a year on an interim basis. ICOM represents approximately 53,000 museum professionals in over 129 countries.

Ekner brings with her 20 years experience working in institutions in Sweden and New Zealand and is a former chair of ICOM Sweden and board member of the ICOM Nord Regional Alliance.

ICOM has had a turbulent few years, with much discussion over the organisation’s controversial new definition of what a museum is. In 2020, nine members of the council’s committee and executive board resigned in protest.

Two years later it finally agreed the wording should describe ‘a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets, and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage’ which the addition that it is ‘open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally, and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection, and knowledge sharing.’

A previous proposed description, which called museums ‘polyphonic spaces’ that should ‘contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing’ also included references to ‘diversity’ and ‘sustainability’, causing uproar for being deemed jargon-heavy, ideological and proscriptive.