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USC International Museum Institute
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Selma Holo, General Director IMI
Recognizing that study and practice in museums can no longer be limited to the local or national experience, the University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts & Sciences has created the International Museum Institute (IMI). The IMI is the first institute within a university dedicated to the notion of evolving out of that single originating institution of higher learning into a series of university, museum and governmental collaborations committed to focused dialogue about the future of museums and museum leadership within a particularly defined global context: IMI's context will always be a global one that simultaneously maintains respect for specific national and local imperatives. IMI has as its primary goal the search for fertile common ground for the advancement of constructive dialogue.
USC's first formal partner in the International Musuem Institute is the Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, the oldest, largest, and most prestigious university in Latin America . Our relationship with Mexico will welcome participation from its Ministry of Culture, CONACULTA, foundations and other cultural insitutions. Above all, we feel it appropriate that such close neighbors and trusted friends should embark on this journey of research and discovery together. The IMI will eventually invite museum directors and museum leaders from other countries, especially those on the Pacific Rim , to become partners or fellows. Together participants will concentrate on the most pressing museological matters of the day in a “think-tank” environment wherein it will be possible to re-imagine the role of the institution of the museum in a changed and changing society.

The IMI will eventually invite museum directors and museum leaders from other countries to become partners or fellows with their peers in Southern California and Mexico to engage in dialogue about the future of museums in today's world. They will concentrate on the most pressing museological matters of the day in a “think-tank” environment wherein it will be possible to re-imagine the role of the museum in society. The perspective will always be global while at the same time respectful of national and local imperatives. IMI has as its primary goal the search for fertile common ground so as to advance these discussions.

USC Dean Joseph Aoun has said " The Institute exemplifies the university's strategic plan, which calls for interdisciplinary scholarship that integrates the global world and uses basic research to help solve societal problems".

The Los Angeles area museum and cultural professionals who are participating thus far in the Planning Sessions of the IMI include directors and heads of departments Bruce Robertson, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): Jane Pisano and Vanda Vitali, The Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History; Jeremy Strick, Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA); James Folsom, the Huntington Botanical Gardens; John Gray, Autry Museum of the West; Phil Nowlen, the Getty Leadership Institute; Selma Holo, Fisher Gallery of the University of Southern California; Gregorio Luke, the Museum of Latin American Art; Edward Goldman, the local National Public Radio (KCRW) art critic; and Tim Wride, Director of the Art Granting Foundation, “No Strings” and the Photography Department LACMA; and Maite Alvarez, Special Projects, The Getty Museum. To expand the vistas of the IMI, the Head of Academic Education, Faya Causey, at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. will arrange special visits for IMI workshop participants to the capital so as to gain exposure to the American federal museum system.

Representatives from Mexico in the Planning Sessions include: Gerardo Estrada, Director of Cultural Promotion at UNAM; Graciela de la Torre, General Director of Visual Art at UNAM; Miguel Fernandez Felix, Director of Museo Nacional del Virreinato, AMPROM President (Mexican Museums Professionals Association) and Director of M Journal (Museums of Mexico and the World); Ramiro Martinez, Director of Rufino Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum; Marco Barrera, Meseum Cunsultant and Former AMPROM President; Nelly Robles, Director of Archeological Site Monte-Alban, Oaxaca; Alejandro Ávila, Director of Ethnobotanical Garden, Oaxaca; and Bertha Cea, Liaison of Cultural Affairs in the American Embassy of Mexico.

“There are talented museum leaders in culturally rich locations throughout the world who are clearly on a trajectory to becoming the most influential people in the worlds of visual culture in their respective countries,” said Selma Holo, who will be heading the Instiute. “They understand that the messages of their museums must be made more resonant for their increasingly globalized and hybridized audiences—even as they continue to honor the needs of their local cultural imperatives. These are the leaders who will be chosen to attend the Institute and to participate in its activities”.

Both USC and UNAM will be developing academic programs for exchanges and for the development of future museum leaders as well.

Es muy importante recalcar que recientemente la UNAM ingresó al grupo de las 100 mejores universidades del mundo, en el puesto 20 en el campo de las ciencias y humanidades y en el 93 en el area de ciencia.

Cabe anadir que la Asociación Internacional de Universidades considero que en el mundo hay más de 9,000 instituciones de educación superior, por lo que la sociedad USC-UNAM se dará entre dos instituciones de excelencia.

Graciela de la Torre has written in UNAM's announcement of the IMI that she believed that the founders of the Institute at USC believed Mexico should be invited as the first partner in the project because of Mexico's capacity to participate in a high-level dialogue--not for the exchange of exhibitions or for the exchange of programming, but rather for the purpose of a profound museological reflection and then for the ability to manage the new knowledge with its counterparts in the Institute. Mexico, de la Torre added, has a long museum tradition, major cultural offerings, and experts who can enter into this reflection with the goal of achieving and transmitting the new models which come out of the shared dialogue.

It is our expectation that our conversations may result in general conclusions which are derived from the conjunction of theory and practice. In some cases we may arrive at action plans to advance the world of museums as it faces evolving challenges, opportunities and pressures.

De la Torre adds that "at the turn of the 21st century museums are confronting new paradigms, as they become sites not only for the transmission of knowledge, but also for the provocation of experience and dialogue. This kind of communication (in the "dialogical museum" as it was termed by the museologist Felipe Lacouture) is occuring not only between the museum and its visitors, but also among museums themselves and can become a means of interinstitutional enrichment--as is certainly now evident with the creation of the IMI.

Proceedings will be disseminated to interested parties, to include scholars, museum professionals and the general public. The activities of the IMI will include workshops, graduate and post-graduate academic activities including seminars and exchanges for graduates students, events for selected audiences and public events.

Participation will be by invitation, but recommendations are welcomed.