My first brush with the International Council of Museums (ICOM) was sometime in the late 1960’s after I was appointed director of the National Museum by then President Ferdinand Marcos. If memory serves, it was the French embassy which announced that Mr. Hugues de Varine Bohan, director of ICOM, was coming to town and that he would like to visit the National Museum and similar institutions. I received a profile of this emiment French gentleman and was most properly impressed. He read history at the Sorbonne, is an historien aside from being an archéologue and muséologue, everything I had wanted to become had I not taken another turn, the beauty pageant detour.
He arrived at my office punctually, despite the monsoon rains; we breezed through the Natural History section, walked to the Anthropology and Archeaology divisions which were in another building. The Tabon man’s skull had just been discovered In a cave in Palawan and was on exhibit in a faux cave. The public school children who would come to visit were enthralled by the skull and cave and it seemed the venerable president of ICOM was just as intrigued. He gazed solemnly at the Manunggal jar, looked at it from different angles, and congratulated me for having it declared a National Cultural Treasure. We drove off to the San Agustin Church in Intramuros and though it was submerged in ankle-deep flood waters, I took him to see the cloister and the colonial religious paintings.
I saw him again in Mexico (ever dashing and charmant), when I had just arrived. That time it was his turn to take me around colonial conventos and churches in the charming historic sections of Mexico city. Thanks to technology we have re-connected; his term as president of ICOM has ended, but he remains its guiding light. He said I should take a more active part in ICOM Philippines.
At this writing, the ICOM is meeting in Kyoto, Japan, to elect a new set of officials and to realign strategies for a more vigorous future. I am happy to hear that the ICOM will strive to diversify its membership ( our national committee needs that badly!} It wants to ensure that barriers to membership are removed specially in countries where the ICOM is under-represented.
ICOM will find ways to support the international museum community by providing professional risk management processes and innovative holistic security approaches, to protect visitors, staff, collections, and assets. For the coming decade, ICOM aims to provide equal benefits for all members and practical support for regions in need of professional development. ICOM will develop a comprehensive communications package to support existing members and encourage active participation and professional development.
My sincere thanks to Dr. Ana Labrador, assistant-director of the National Museum of the Filipino People, for sharing blow-by-blow information about the energetic debates in Kyoto. I am sure she will breath new life in the Philippine committee of ICOM and that she will make it easier for a broader spectrum of Filipinos to become active members . ICOM, here ICOM!