C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 6 - Feb. 2000
What Does a Declaration Mean to CAM?
For some years now, the Commonwealth Association of Museums has followed the pattern of a number of international conferences and meetings which adopt declarations at the conclusion of their sessions. In Barbados, the participants included a significant number of new faces and recent members as well as long time colleagues. It may help to understand the declaration if we say a word about the way in which CAM forms and uses declarations. Many such resolutions or conclusions do not seem to amount to anything other than to state some optimistic, soon-forgotten statements which are often not the result of comprehensive discussion and which call for no further action.
CAM's approach is to encourage sufficient discussion and building of shared knowledge to articulate a statement which will stand alone as an holistic expression of intent and also provide a sound base for future action.
In beginning to formulate these statements, called resolutions, recommendation, declarations etc. depending on both circumstance and tradition, some implicit principles have been used by CAM to proceed.
- First of all, the declarations have been used only as a comprehensive outcome for a specific programme dealing with a defined topic. While this may not always be clear because Triennial General Assemblies have been held in conjunction with several programmes, the Declaration refers to the Programme Outcome not at that point to the general plans of CAM.
- The declarations represent a thoughtful consideration of principles, necessary organization and action strategies to form a guide for future direction about the topic in mind. In the "Busyness" of everyday museum life, we rarely have the chance to stop and think about important issues and create a framework within which we can move forward. We want our programmes to allow us to think in a collective and comprehensive way about what certain issues mean and how they can be addressed by museums and by CAM and by our individual members in their own situations.
- The declarations are created by the programme participants and are taken by CAM as a strong recommendation to Council and often to other outside bodies and agencies and Commonwealth museums to engage in certain kinds of action to uphold certain principles. This kind of declaration is an expression of belief and advocacy not a judgement on the actions of others.
- Because many Council members are often present during the programmes and because the declarations have several days thought and discussion behind them, the Executive Council takes them seriously and does what it can to integrate as much as possible into the ongoing directions and specific programme plans of CAM. Because CAM has a minimal funding base at this time and must raise funds for its ongoing activities, there is no specific time frame for implementation. The Council's responsibility is to prioritize actions and locate and allocate resources as they can be found.
- Even though we are not always able to achieve the results we want because of lack of funds or changing circumstances, the declaration still stands as an important guide and a sound base from which to build our future directions.
There are other external factors besides funds which prevent CAM from realizing specific plans or slow us in our progress toward the general principles and goals. For example, the discussion paper on the meaning of "indigenous" recommended in the 1994 Symposium in Victoria appears not to be an acceptable approach to clarifying issues relating to "First Nations". Much more effort is required to work together with indigenous peoples to provide support in effective and positive ways and determine future recommendations for CAM. Another factor is that CAM as an international organization can only offer assistance and suggest ways of doing so. It is necessary for those in individual nations to want to take up that offer and to take advantage of opportunities.
CAM does not wish to create declarations on individual issues without a larger framework of intent and without serious consideration and discussion of the topic. CAM does not wish to see declarations of so general a nature that there is no sense of responsibility for following up or no easy way of assessing whether there are concrete results. Above all, we see the declarations as inspirations to action, goals to enrich our professional commitment, and dreams to reach for.
Read the Bridgetown, Barbados Declaration