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Career Tree - Curricula Guidelines - About the Guidelines - Development Process - Resources

About the ICOM Curricula Guidelines

The ICOM Curricula Guidelines is organized into five broad areas of competency: general work requirements, museology, management, public programming, and information and collections management and care. It is designed to give the museum profession a framework for meeting the learning and performance needs of the future. Content has been gathered from sources worldwide and is available in English, French, and Spanish language versions.

The Curricula Guidelines expand the notion of professional training, shifting the approach from a content model that focuses on museological theory and technical skills to a process model that emphasizes broad systems for understanding the museum and individuals' roles and responsibilities in its operations.

The Guidelines provide information from which informed decisions—judgements based on purpose, resources, values, and experiences—can be made at various junctures by institutions or individuals. Basic competencies are approached from the point of view of achieving an organization's strategic objectives or managing a successful museum career, rather than from the perspective of job descriptions. The transformation of approach was selected for two reasons: First, as a response to changes in museum operations from inwardly focused institutions to externally driven ones. Second, as an acknowledgment of recent shifts in understanding about the nature of learning, the creation of knowledge, and the methods of instructional delivery.

Topics within the competency areas are listed alphabetically not hierarchically or according to relationships between or among them. Competencies do not define a level of complexity, nor are they meant to be all inclusive. Relationships between and among the topics are not specifically addressed in the Guidelines because connections will be shaped by the various training formats, job responsibilities, and individual learning styles and situations. The degree of competency in each of the five areas required by various individuals will depend upon the scope of a person's responsibilities and the nature of the job performed. The document assumes professional staff are knowledgeable in the discipline(s) or focus of the museum.

The Curricula Guidelines aim to respond to the continuous learning needs of the museum workforce. The content identified in the Guidelines is expected to be acquired incrementally throughout the course of a career and through a combination of formal and informal instructional formats. Examples of instructional methods for which the content could be applied include structured work experiences, academic instruction, supervised internships, study tours, professional association leadership activities, fellowships, short-term training courses, and research papers. In addition, the establishment of conditions within an organization or association that emphasizes mentoring and collaboration opportunities strategically aligned with the Curricula Guidelines will increase staff capabilities.

Specific course syllabi are not prescribed in the Guidelines. Rather, content selections and instructional methods should be framed in concert with an organization or sector's structure, priorities, and cultural context. The process of course development should also take into account the previous training, experiences, learning style and stage, and goals and objectives of the recipient(s). Assistance in analyzing training needs and structuring activities is provided in the Selected Resources for Developing Museology Curricula. Additional information on specific museum jobs can be obtained by consulting materials created by other ICOM International Committees and related cultural organizations, such as the following:

ICOM-CC - Conservation
CECA - Education and Cultural Action
CIMCIM - Musical Instruments
CIDOC - Documentation
ICFOM - Museology
ICMS - Security Committee
MPR - Marketing, Public Relations, and Fund-raising
ICA - International Council on Archives (Blue Shield)
ICCROM - International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property
ICOMOS - International Council on Monuments and Sites

ICOM committees not listed here can be accessed via

The Guidelines are envisioned as a work in progress, evolving in tandem with the field; they will be reviewed and updated at regular intervals. Comments about and suggestions for additions to the "ICOM Curricula Guidelines for Professional Development in Museums" and the "Selected Resources for Developing Museology Curricula" are accepted gladly. Bibliographic citations are welcome in all languages. Send your contributions to

Contributors: Emmanuel N. Arinze, Barbara Butler, Kathleen Dardes, Peter Davis, Hugues de Varine, Nancy J. Fuller, Lois Irvine, Jerold Kappel, Andrew T. Kenyon, Nicky Ladkin, David Liston, Ivo Maroevic, David J. Maurer, Martin Seggar, Teresa Scheiner, Carolyn Rose, Jay Rounds, Stephen L. Williams, Douglas Worts

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Career Tree - Curricula Guidelines - About the Guidelines - Development Process - Resources

Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies

          Maintained by the Smithsonian Center for 
          Education and Museum Studies

          Updated 28 August 2009