December 2, 2020
Καλημέρα σας. Minister Mendoni, Ambassador Smith, friends, colleagues, it’s a pleasure to speak at our annual museum conference as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.
For a decade, this flagship Embassy program, a collaboration with the Benaki Museum and the British Council, has helped to share ideas and best practices to support the creative industries and the cultural sector.
I also want to thank the Ministry of Culture for their auspices and continued support. Exchanging exhibitions and increasing cooperation between American and Greek museums are both important elements of our people-to-people ties, which we discuss each year in the U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue. These initiatives significantly strengthen the bonds between our peoples.
During Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Greece in September, the Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Dendias agreed that museum partnerships should play an important role in our celebration of Greece’s bicentennial in 2021. The United States and Greece also agreed to explore public-private partnerships in culture and technology and to continue capacity-building programs like today’s conference.
Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank our American virtual guests: Dr. Spencer Crew from the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Lori Fogarty from the Oakland Museum of California, Elizabeth Merritt from the Center for the Future of Museums, and Adam Rozan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, as well as all of the speakers and participants for sharing their experience and expertise.
After a decade of exchanging ideas on diverse cultural topics, I am proud of our collaboration’s new international reach. Moving forward, it will be called the CoMuseum International Conference. This new name refers to the notions of collaboration and community that we want the conference to inspire here in Greece and in the region.
Our initial plans for this tenth anniversary included a series of festivities at the Benaki Museum in Athens and the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. But the pandemic forced our team to rethink not only the format of theconference, but also the themes and scope of this year’s event.
The 2020 CoMuseum International Conference will address four important themes that our societies have been dealing with over the past year: the role of leadership in challenging times; the digital transformation of cultural organizations during and beyond the pandemic; where museums fit into the social justice movement; and their role in environmental sustainability.
I know that the global pandemic has made this an especially difficult year for you and your institutions. But I think the time we’ve spent in lockdown has also, once again, demonstrated the value of our arts and cultural organizations.
We turn to the arts in times of crisis for inspiration, to reflect on the ideas and emotions that define us, to share experiences in a community, and to take a break from daily pressures in our lives. In these moments, we need our museums and cultural institutions more than ever.
How many of us have entertained ourselves at home and learned something new by taking virtual tours of the world’s most famous museums? How many evenings have we spent watching movies or streaming performances?
The pandemic has also encouraged cultural institutions to embrace new technologies to reach their audiences.
During the spring lockdown, Google partnered with the Ministry of Tourism on the Greece From Home initiative, which enabled people from all over the world to connect with Greece and Greek culture in new ways. From the website, families could learn Greek recipes, examine the treasures of the Acropolis Museum, or visit the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.
Similarly, Microsoft, a sponsor of the CoMuseumConference, partnered with Greece’s Ministry of Culture to bring Ancient Olympia, home of the Olympic Games, to our desktops through augmented reality.
So, I hope that the discussions you have today and over the next two days will lead to further innovative solutions that cultural organizations can use to weather this storm, and hopefully emerge from the crisis stronger and even better.
Before closing, I would like to again thank our wonderful partners at the Benaki Museum and the British Council; our supporters, the Ministry of Culture, the Athens and Thessaloniki Municipalities, the Goethe Institute and the French Institute; and our sponsors, Unisystem and Microsoft.
I wish you all great success with the conference and look forward to hearing about the results.
I strongly believe that despite the current challenges, your institutions, which are among the top museums and cultural organizations in Greece, can work together to create a brighter and more culturally rich future for us all. Ευχαριστώ πολύ.