Decolonising the museum? Community experiences in the periphery of the ICOM museum definition

Bruno Brulon Soares*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article proposes a postcolonial reflection on the impacts of the ICOM museum definition on the practice of community-based museums and considers the possible effects of engaging these museums in the international conversations for a new definition. It investigates ICOM’s internal debates on a new museum definition, resumed since 2016, and its normative, political, and financial effects on the reality of community museums in the peripheries of the global South. By exploring the historical roots of the present debate and its decolonial rhetoric, this paper questions what forms of “decolonisation” are at stake, once again, in the discussions concerning a new museum definition for the 21st century. To demonstrate the impacts of the definition on community museums around the world, the article recurs to the example of Brazilian Social museology, which serves to illuminate how the persistence of political relationships between a centre and its peripheries help to define museum marginality. The ICOM museum definition, conceived as a tool by some central agents to be applied globally in different social contexts, establishes the boundaries between the subjects who have the right to memory and the means to make museums and those who are currently deprived of them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-455
Number of pages17
JournalCurator: The Museum Journal
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Museum
  • Museum definition
  • Decolonisation
  • ICOM


Dive into the research topics of 'Decolonising the museum? Community experiences in the periphery of the ICOM museum definition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this