The best city museums act as a starting point for the discovery of the city, which can lead people to look with fresh, more informed and tolerant eyes at the richness of the present urban environment and to imagine beyond it to past and possible future histories Nicola Johnson, Museum International, UNESCO July-September 1995
CAMOC (The International Committee for the Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities) is one of a number of international organisations concerned with cities and urban living.
We are a forum for people who work in or are interested in museums about the past, present and future of cities. We are also a forum for urban planners, historians, economists, architects or geographers, all of whom can share knowledge and experience with us, exchange ideas and explore partnerships across national boundaries. With around 200 members from 43 countries we carry out projects, run workshops, we publish and we hold meetings with a specific theme in a different city each year.
The Committee reflects the growing focus world wide on cities: their economic importance, their spectacular growth, and the problems and possibilities they present. The matters for debate on the city are almost endless: pollution, regeneration, the private car, public transport, the flight to the suburbs, the destruction of heritage, insensitive development. The Committee aims to be at the centre of this debate, not least through supporting and encouraging museums of cities in their work of collecting, preserving and presenting original material on the city’s past, present and future, work which can reinforce the city’s identity and contribute to its development.
We have held conferences in 11 cites world wide so far and held other meetings and seminars in Athens, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Kazan and Moscow. Members have also been involved in projects to set up new city museums, notably in Aveiro in Portugal and Volos in Greece. More recently we have taken part in the Insight Favela project in Rio de Janeiro.
City museums, by applying their special skills, have much to say that is relevant to modern society. Museums about cities need to interpret and explain urban society and the processes of change at work within it. Max Hebditch, Museum International, UNESCO July-September 1995
CAMOC owes its origins to changing attitudes to museums of cities, museums which were in the main museums of city history and guardians of city treasures. The idea that these specialised museums could have another dimension and reflect the living city around them gradually took shape, and in 1993 a meeting of city museums was held at the Museum of London, perhaps the first of its kind. The International Association of City Museums was formed and met in Barcelona in 1995. Later, an informal group of people exchanged views and felt that an international committee under the imprint of ICOM could carry weight and a proposal to that effect was made at the ICOM triennial meeting in Seoul in 2004.
The background is set out in more detail in the first chapter of our book City Museums and City Development. There are also two seminal articles in UNESCO’s Museum International of 1995, which we quote from on this page. Also, the proceedings of the International Association of City Museums conference in Amsterdam in 2005—City Museums as Centres of Civic Dialogue? This again is seminal to an understanding of changing attitudes.
If museums of cities did not already exist, they might now need to be invented to help understand and negotiate urban change Duncan Grewcock, Museum International, UNESCO September 1996