How do we define a literary museum?

On March 22nd, as agreed with our Chair, Galina Alexeeva, Maria Gregorio wrote to all colleagues who had joined the ICLM meeting in Tbilisi, in September 2015:

Dear Colleagues,
I trust you remember the very interesting debate (on the last day of our Conference in Tbilisi) about how a literary museum can be defined – a debate that followed the pregnant keynote speech of Dmitrii Bak. The time had been too short, alas, and many people couldn’t have their say. Perhaps you recall we had asked our colleagues to send also in writing the opinions they had expressed so that we would post them on our website, thus allowing also many others to have a say on the subject.

The General Conference of July is approaching and I am now urging you to send to our President Galina Alexeeva (in copy to me) a file with the views you had shared in Tbilisi as well as those that had to be swallowed for lack of time or even those that came to your mind afterwards.

We would post all of them on a special page of our site before July so that our discussion could continue or be completed when we’ll meet in Milan. It’s a really good opportunity: let’s take advantage of it!

A heartfelt thank you to all who will answer our invitation!

Please read e-mails on the subject, sent from Galina Alekseeva, Stefan Bohman, Lothar Jordan, Vesna Delic Gozze, quickly followed our appeal.
Please read the files sent by Alla Bayramova, Lothar Jordan (1 and 2), Ana Luiza Rocha do Valle, Vesna Delic Gozne, Gabriella Gulyás.

On March 23rd Stefan Bohman wrote

Dear colleagues
First: a museum definition must use the ICOM definition now in function. I am a member of the Group discussing this, and I think that we are not prepared to change it in a dramatic way, but to try to explaine the words in it.

So – a definition of a “Literary museum” must start with ICOMs definition for the word “museum” in “Literary museum”. The next step is then to define the word “Literary” in “Literary museum”.

Here I Think that we can talk about a museum around a person that has produced literary works (of several kinds). It can be both the home of this writer or a museum dedicated to the writer (and not his home). And – a literary museum can also be a museum dedicated to literary works more in general, f e literature from a city, a special kind of literature etc.

So my friends, this is a proposal for a discussion!!

On March 25th Galina Alekseeva wrote

Dear colleagues,
Thank you very much for participating in this discussion. Thanks very much, Stefan, you are absolutely right: we should start with the ICOM definition of a Museum. Alla Bayramova adds quite appropriately the aims of a literary museum. And it is really significant, Maria, the notion of a book museum, and how it relates to a literary museum. We did not touch it in our discussion in Tbilisi.

On April 1st Lothar Jordan replied

Please find attached my proposal, 1. more traditional and 2. including book museums and museums like the Museum of 20th c. German literary in Marbach.

I shortened the ICOM definition, f.e. I don´t understand why a museum should not make a profit. The idea to connect museums to tourism (ITaly!) is generally accepted, and tourism wants to make money.

The word “context” would of course include sources and the life of writers.

Stefan Bohman on April 2nd

Thank you for that Lothar. I like it very much, but with some comments. It´s a Little bit tricky as an ICOM member to go away from the official ICOM dokumentation of museums, f e about “Non-profit” (we have discussed this in Sweden and tries to make a definition that is “The Institution is allowed to make a profit, but when Selling from the Collections, after offering other museums, the profit must go back to the work on the museums Collections”).

But while this is under discussing we can as a suggestion skip it in our definition, but then it is necessasry that the sentence about “in the service of society” is in place. I will also suggest some small Changes of what Litterary embrace, also the Life of writers are important, but not anything that Changes it in the whole. So this is my suggestions of a definition, with just small Changes from Lothars:

A litterary museum is a permanent institution open to the public, in the service of society, wich acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, the tangible ans intangible evidence of writers, litterature and its content, including its impact. That embraces work and life of one or more writers; literary genres; literary epochs; books and other Carriers of literary texts.

On April 5th Vesna Delic Gozze wrote

My arguments are:
Based on the definition of “literary” from the Oxford Dictionary, I argue that there is no need to extend our definition to include “authors”, or “books” as these terms have already been understood as essential characteristics of “literary”. That is, “literary” has a quality of immediately being related to authors, books, texts, poetry, publishing–meaning anything even vaguely related to the creative and intimate process of writing, and to the process of making the written work presented to the public.

Please see the definition of literary:
literary, adj. and n. : Oxford English Dictionary