NATHIST Conference Report 2019

During the week of 1–7 September 2019, the city of Kyoto welcomed over 4,500 participants to the ICOM General Conference. A record-breaker in terms of attendance, this triennial gathering inspired a range of discussions and exchanges on museum-related issues. Through sessions, excursions, workshops, and more, participants were able to engage with other museum professionals and enthusiasts to broaden their experience and understanding of museums around the world.

4m1KCK6IThe NATHIST portion of the conference was host to approximately 200 participants from about 30 countries, who came and went freely between this and other activities at this enormous gathering. The NATHIST conference theme Natural History Museums: A Nexus Between Nature and Culture referenced the theme of the General Assembly Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition, but had a flavor that is uniquely ours, addressing big-picture issues like Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Development Program (for instance, Henry McGhie, or one of our keynote speakers), to what specific museums were doing to bridge the Nature-Culture gap. There were talks on initiatives with museums interactive storytelling, community engagement, and citizen science. While the mix of talks presented a wide variety of topics and perspectives, one thing was consistent: the chance to come together to meet with friends and colleagues, reestablish acquaintances, and learn from one another about international best practice in natural history museums.

The final day of meetings took place at the Osaka Museum of Natural History, on the 5th of September. We are especially grateful to Director Kyoshi Kawabata for inviting us, Dr. Daisuke Sakuma for taking the lead on organizing the day, as well as the museum staff for making us feel so welcome.

IMG_7987On this day, we also had an Anthropocene Working Group meeting, the first under the new leadership of Dr. Nicolas Kramar, Director of the Valais Museum of Nature in Switzerland. It was a stimulating session, focusing on the practicalities of researching, displaying, interpreting and collecting the Anthropocene. A full program is available at this link.

The conference excursion was an exciting trip to Lake Biwa on the water near Chikubu Island, the beautiful Lake Biwa Museum, as well as the village of Harie Shozu. All these have a special relationship with the water and wildlife of Lake Biwa. Residents have been using the lake’s resources for 40,000 and has deep traditions. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the museum staff and organizers who made this day so memorable.


Where culture meets nature.jpgAt the end of the conference, we were treated to one final exhibition, a reprise of Where Nature Meets Culture, held in the 19th-century Noguchi Residence in Kyoto. In order to raise awareness for the reliance humans have on nature, natural history museums from across Japan combined their efforts to hold three exhibitions. These provided opportunities to reflect on and appreciate not only Japanese traditional culture and historical heritage, but also the wonder of Japan’s tangible and intangible natural benefits.

The 2019 meeting was also a time for elections. We said goodby to outgoing President, Dr. Eric Dorfman (USA), Deputy Chair, Dr. Isabel Landim (Brazil), Secretary Lynda Knowles (USA), and Board Members Osamu Kamei (Japan), Anna Omedes (Spain) and Claire Meteke (Zambia). NATHIST is extremely grateful for their hard work and commitment since 2013.

The elections resulted in a new board, comprising new members and some returning members. The new board is:

  • Dorit Wolenitz (Israel) President
  • Christel Schollaardt (Netherlands) Vice President
  • Phaedra Fang (Taiwan) Secretary
  • Jesse Rodriquez (USA) Treasurer
  • Shih-yu Hung (Taiwan) Board Member
  • Atsushi Yabe (Japan) Board Member
  • Dacha Atienza (Spain) Board Member
  • Breda Činč Juhant (Slovenia) Board Member

Updated biographies will soon be available on the “About” page of this website.

We would also very much like to thank ICOM Japan, our Tokyo-based liaisons Osamu Kamei and Atsushi Yabe, and the ICOM Secretariat for their stellar work, attention to detail and warm welcome. The conference was a smoothly-run success, from all aspects.

We look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in 2020!