ICOM Azerbaijan. Role in protection of cultural heritage

6 October 2021 16:33 (UTC+04:00)

By Laman Ismayilova

With its rich heritage, Azerbaijan successfully promotes culture and art worldwide. The country is home to numerous museums which store extensive collections.

Over the past years, Azerbaijan has created sustained partnerships with world museums and heritage sites.

Since 1993, the Azerbaijani National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has been actively cooperating with the world’s leading heritage sites and museums.

ICOM is a membership association and a non-governmental organization that establishes professional and ethical standards for museum activities.

The organization raises public cultural awareness through global networks and cooperation programs.

Being a public organization, ICOM Azerbaijan unites the country's museums, science, culture, and art figures as well as all those directly connected with museum work.

Cultural sites' protection

During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, the ICOM Azerbaijan National Committee called for the protection of Azerbaijan's historical and cultural heritage on the territories occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.

In its statement, ICOM Azerbaijan pointed out that hundreds of cultural institutions, including museums, art galleries and more than 700 historical and cultural monuments, along with residential, educational, industrial and agricultural facilities were either destroyed or damaged. 

There are the 1954 Hague Convention, the 1972 World Heritage Convention, and many other international agreements aimed at preventing the annihilation of human heritage.

In September 2021, ICOM Azerbaijan highlighted the Armenian vandalism at the ICOM 2021 International Virtual Conference on Museums.

Director of the National Carpet Museum and ICOM Azerbaijan National Committee Chairwoman Shirin Malikova made a presentation on "The Destruction of Cultural and Historical Sites and Museums in Times of War and Military Conflicts on the Example of Karabakh". 

Shirin Malikova stressed that the desecration and deliberate destruction of the world’s historical and cultural monuments are open disrespect for and disobedience to international law and violation of UNESCO, The Hague, and the Council of Europe conventions, as the worst atrocity against humanity.

The presentation informed the conference participants about the plight of thousands of exhibits, falsification of ancient Albanian monuments, and illegal archaeological excavations.

Malikova also spoke about the ongoing reconstruction of the liberated territories and demonstrated the photographs of the renovated monuments.

International partnership

Many national museums are successfully represented at international conferences, workshops, and round tables thanks to the work of the ICOM Azerbaijan National Committee.

Among them was the conference "Museum Innovations" held in Warsaw, Poland.

The country was represented at the event by Shirin Malikova.

Representatives from the museums of Great Britain, Turkey, Sweden, the Netherlands, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Andorra, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Ireland, Hungary, Greece, and Finland joined the conference.

Azerbaijan's Carpet Museum was nominated for the most prestigious award in the museum world - the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA).

Moreover, the museum was successfully represented at the international forum on "Museums for Sustainable Development of Society" in Tbilisi, organized by ICOM Azerbaijan and other representatives of the organization.

Shirin Malikova made a report on the topic "Museum Sphere: Dynamics of Development" at the forum. The director of the Carpet Museum spoke about the activities of the leading museums of Azerbaijan, including the Heydar Aliyev Center, the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, the Azerbaijan National Art Museum, the Icharishahar State Historical Architecture, the State Museum of Musical Culture, and the new projects.

ICME, INTERCOM, ICOM Azerbaijan Joint Conference 2021

Since the start of the pandemic, the ICOM National Committee has participated in multiple conferences and other events of great importance.

Now the ICOM National Committee is getting ready for a new conference co-organized in partnership with the International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME) and International Committee for museum management (INTERCOM).

The joint conference Transforming Collecting Policies in Museums: The Need for Leadership and Societal Responsibility will be held in Baku on October 13-15.

The conference is organized within the support of the Azerbaijan Culture Ministry and the National Carpet Museum.

The fast-changing world brought unprecedented challenges in 2020. Museums have found themselves in a new reality facing immense difficulties to stay connected with their audiences while at the same time struggling for survival through the resulting financial crises.

Therefore, it is extremely important to continue to discuss key topics such as decolonizing museums, engaging with ethno tourism, and how to provide the museum leadership that enables museums to address modern challenges.

The conference will open on October 13, at 10:00 am, at the Carpet Museum, bringing together ten specialists in-person from Azerbaijan, Russia, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Romania, and the Netherlands together with the Chairs of international committees and around 100 participants online.

The three-day conference includes presentations by 23 speakers on the following topics: Decolonizing Museums: Restitution, Repatriation & Healing, Museums and Ethnotourism, Leadership and Museum Management for Our Times.

Along with the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum, as part of the cultural program, the conference guests will visit the Old City Museum Center, the Heydar Aliyev Center, the Azerbaijan State Museum of Art, and the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan.

The conference will focus on a dialogue between scholars of Ethnographic and other museums and offer a platform for the presentation and discussion of recent research.

It will also highlight the significance of the concepts of decolonizing museums, ethno tourism, leadership and museum management.

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