The purpose of the ICOFOM Annual Meeting is to create an international forum for a high level discussion on a museological topic. Usually, the topic is different each year, but sometimes it is analyzed over a three year period.
Approaches to museology vary widely around the world, for example, using museums to make statements about nationalism is given priority in some countries. In others, conservation and the exhibition of highly aestheticized, non-controversial artefacts, are regarded as the primary roles for museums. By contrast, in other nations, the development of “histories from below” or the salvaging of the histories of the lives of people who were regarded as having no value, is now a primary museological focus. The wide international variety of museologies means that the annual meeting has fundamental importance for the expression and recording of these differences.
When the meeting date is announced, the call for conference papers is accompanied by a provocative paper which is published on the website setting out some of the avenues for exploration of any particular topic. An international editorial panel acts as a panel of referees making a selection of papers which are published and available at the beginning of the conference. The annual meeting proceeds via lively debate informed by prior reading of the papers, rather than via the unilateral delivery of individual papers.
The meetings take place all over the world allowing conference attendees to gain insight into a broad array of concrete museological expressions. Every three years the ICOFOM meeting takes place within the framework of the ICOM Triennial and is accompanied by elections which establish the executive committee and office bearers for the coming three years.