The Third Dialogue of the China-Europe-America Museums Cooperation Initiative convened in Tianjin


Vespers for the blessed virgin


The third dialogue of the China-Europe-America Museums Cooperation Initiative took place on May 18-19, 2023. In his introduction to this international event, David Gosset, founder of the China-Europe-America Global Initiative explained: “In 2021, it is all online that we have explored how technology is transforming museums (…)  Last year, we have focused on the role of museums in the preservation of cultural heritage. In the post COVID environment, we have decided to consider museums as cultural intermediaries between civilizations (...) The China-Europe-America Museums Cooperation Initiative is itself a community made of experts, practitioners, collectors, artists, designers, entrepreneurs, and educators. We are especially honored this year to cooperate with Nankai University in the city of Tianjin. Nankai has been a pioneer in the field of museology and museum studies are essential to the development of museums.”


Gao Anming, vice president of the China International Communications Group, addressed the opening ceremony, followed by Chen Yulu, president of Nankai University. Gao Anming looked at the event in the context of China’s Global Civilization Initiative. For him, the gathering on museum as well as this year’s theme correspond to the Global Civilization Initiative. Nankai’s president, Chen Yulu, insisted on the role of his prestigious university in the field of museum studies. 

This year’s forum benefited from the support of Lina Mendoni, the current Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece. In her address, she noted that the third dialogue of the China-Europe-America Museums Cooperation Initiative coincides with the International Museum Day that is organized since 1977 by the International Council of Museums (ICOM). She added that museums can contribute to social cohesion while being powerful tools for creativity and innovation.

For the third consecutive year, Irina Bokova, former Director-General of the UNESCO, contributed to the debate. She shared her understanding of museums: “Museums as cutting-edge laboratories of our shared humanity – to protect our heritage, to catalyse new creativity, to help us find words and images to capture the complexity of our world and to understand the other. I firmly believe in the power of museums as forces to rejuvenate urban policies, to deepen social inclusion, to create jobs, to foster a sense of belonging, and to make the most of cultural heritage for all and to contribute to the mutual understanding in a complex world.”

Deborah Lehr, chairman and founder of the Antiquities Coalition ended the opening ceremony. In her address, she said: “Museums have a unique ability—and responsibility—to harness the power of cultural heritage. Responsible cultural exchange can foster mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect. The lawful and ethical collection and trade in antiquities can do the same, so long asit does not harm local communities, disrupt the historical record, or fund crime, conflict, or violent extremism. Finally, repatriation can serve as a bridge between cultures, and moreover, an opportunity to right past wrongs.”


Speakers of Openning Ceremony

Yu Xinzhong, Dean of the Faculty of History at Nankai University chaired the first session on museums as permanent platforms for artistic and cultural exchanges. The director of Nankai University Museum, Liu Yi, presented his work and his analysis. 

In his address, Louis Godart, former cultural advisor of three Italian Presidents, captured the spirit of the gathering: “There is another fundamental aspect linked today much more than yesterday to the mission of the museum: the ability to open the minds and hearts of men to a universal conscience. The museum teaches us that the search for beauty, the passion for history, the concern to safeguard the testimonies of the past are values anchored in the soul of every human being. In its own way, the museum is a formidable instrument at the service of peace.”


Gretchen Dietrich, executive director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts shared with the audience her views on the evolving role of museums. She did so in the middle of the collection of paintings curated by the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. In her eyes, “museums need to be as much about people as they are about art and objects.” 


Representing a key partner of the China-Europe-America Museums Cooperation Initiative, Yu Yunquan, president of the Beijing’s based Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies enriched the discussion from the perspective of a think-tank.


Sarah J. Chicone, director of the museum studies program at Johns Hopkins University explained that “the Johns Hopkins University’s museum studies graduate program has over 1000 alumni working in institutions across the US and abroad.” She added that “museums are not simply passive reflections of the times but are agents in shaping our understanding of now. Museums have molded public discourse on history, science, and art for centuries. They have been participants in global projects of colonization, willing agents in endeavors of nation-building, and the keepers of cultural patrimony. But the people who walk through their doors are individuals. As such, they are also personal sites of identity formation, memory, and meaning-making.” Arthur de Villepin, founder and CEO of Villepin Art ended the first session.



On the gathering’s second day, William Wang, Dean of emlyon Asia-Pacific chaired a session on technology and its impact on museums. Juan M. Gabarron, director of Cristobal Gabarron Museum and of the Gabarron Foundation, affirmed that “overall, new technologies have the potential to enable museums to better fulfill their missions, engage new audiences, and create innovative new forms of cultural exchange and dialogue. However, he added that “it is important to recognize that these technologies also bring new challenges and ethical considerations, and museums will need to carefully consider how best to integrate new technologies into their operations and programs while maintaining their core values and responsibilities.”


Yao Yang, who leads the Tianjin Museum, Wang Peng, producer of Asia Digital Art Exhibition, and well-known designers Paolo Tassinari and Aldo Cibic offered different perspectives on a reality that is rapidly evolving. In his speech, Paolo Tassinari made a stimulating comment: “Speaking about museums and technologies I would like to draw your attention to a very unique kind of communication technology widely used in the cultural sector, namely writing. We have to acknowledge that 5000 years after its invention, writing is still one of the most powerful means of communication available to us. From handwriting to epigraphy, from typography to digital, writing still is at the centre of our world, together with its rules and shapes.”


Yuan Shengwen, associate Dean of the Faculty of History at Nankai University moderated the last session of the forum on the links between the protection of cultural heritage and the awareness of a shared future for mankind.

Tess Davis, executive director of the Antiquities Coalition in Washington DC, Zhang Jingwen, deputy director of the Nankai University Museum, Renata Codello, secretary general of the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice, Katie Chan, chairwoman of Art Concept Culture Institute, and artist Qian Wu formed a diverse panel and showed the centrality of museums. 



In the closing ceremony that was chaired by David Gosset, Joan McEntee, former Vice Secretary of the US Department of Commerce, expressed that “museums can increase our sense of well-being, help us feel proud of where we have come from, can inspire, challenge, and stimulate us and make us feel healthier. They also enhance life chances by breaking down barriers to access and inclusion.”

Before Louis Godart and Yu Xinzhong made a summary of the third dialogue, Hu Dingyi, the winner of the 2023 Zhejiang University/China-Europe-America Youth Program International Communication Challenge, addressed the event.


In his final remarks, and briefly commenting on Velasquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas, David Gosset announced the theme of next year’s forum: “The Role of Museums in Fostering Creativity”.  



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