Regional Co-operation for Cultural Heritage Development
რეგიონალური თანამშრომლობა კულტურული მემკვიდრეობის განვითარებისათვის
Տարածաշրջանային համագործակցություն հանուն մշակութային ժառանգության զարգացման
Національна політика щодо культурної спадщини
Mədəni irsin inkişaf Etdimilməsi üçün regional əməkdaşlıq
Рэгіянальнае супрацоўніцтва ў мэтах развіцця культурнай спадчыны
E- Journal №1
Cultural Heritage Policy
Museum Policy Problems and Issues in Georgia

Dr. Inga Karaia, 

 ICOM National Committee in Georgia


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, post-soviet countries (among them Georgia), had to face radical challenges linked to newly-independent statehood, new economic relations, and protracted ethnic conflicts in the region, all of which naturally left their marks on national socio-cultural processes, including museum development.  

Statistical data from the “The Georgian Museums Inventory” project indicated that today, Georgia is home to 231 museums of varying content (history, art, memorials, etc.) and legal status (under the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia, local government and municipality, private museums, etc.). Among them, most (99%) are financed through the state budget (25 museums are financed directly by Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia, 9 museums are financed by Tbilisi municipality, 14 museums – by the Georgian National Agency of Cultural Heritage and other museums by local municipalities), although regrettably, these subsidies are provided only for staff wages and basic institutional expenses, while many other vital problems cannot be financially addressed.  

Study and analysis of issues undertaken by the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia and Georgian Museum Association (GMA) with consultations from UNESCO and ICOM experts (2003-2004), revealed a broad spectrum of problems. It was obvious that Georgia’s museums needed complete reorganization, instant and radical reforms, and the development of flexible management mechanisms to introduce modern international museum standards. Accordingly, a programme for Museum Reform was planned and declared in 2004, intended to address the following significant problems:

·         Serious logistical problems regarding material and technical conditions

·         An inflexible legislative foundation

·         Poorly developed management by modern standards

·         Deterioration of collections and outdated exhibitions

·         Underdeveloped museum marketing and fundraising strategies

·         Low quality educational programmes and communication with the public, leading to  reduced attendance and community interest;

·         Undeveloped  personnel training and failure to attract young specialists;

·         Lack of advertising and popularization schemes

Taking these factors into account and considering the crucial role that museums play in safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage, the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia collaborated with the Georgian Museum Association in 2004 to identify priorities for a new Museum Policy, along with strategic directions for Museum Reform in Georgia:

·         Support for improvement of material and technical conditions

·         Improvement of legislative foundation

·         Reorganization of museums in accordance with international standards

·         Diagnostics, restoration and preventive conservation of museum collections in accordance with international standards

·         Recording of museum collections in accordance with international standards of registration

·         Renovation of permanent exhibits and the arrangement of temporary/moving exhibitions

·         Creation and introduction of educational programmes in museums

·         Arrangement of training/workshops for museum personnel, publication of museum methodological manuals, recommendations and instructions in partnership with  international museum institutions

·         Collaboration with the international museum community and other institutions (ICOM, ICOM International Committees, UNESCO, ICCROM, ICOMOS, etc.) through developing joint projects

·         Support for cultural tourism development through creation of attractive environments

·         Popularization of Georgian museums and museum-reserves for protection, development and integration of Georgian cultural heritage in international space


With these priorities in mind, the following positive activities were implemented: formal reorganization of about 50 museums, publication of methodological manuals, recommendations, creation of a database and website for Georgian museums (, ongoing regularly-organized national training sessions, regional workshops, seminars and conferences co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia in collaboration with the Georgian Museum Association and ICOM National Committee in Georgia. But obviously, these actions are not sufficient. Moreover, major actions towards fulfilling strategic museum reforms have not yet been implemented, and many crucial issues were disregarded, hindering further development of our museums and their close approach to modern international standards. In addition, the massive financial and logistical undertaking involved in updating the outdated and even dangerous structural conditions of various museum buildings was not completed and is now an acute problem.

The present situation necessitates the following actions:

  • Development of a clearly-defined  State Museum Policy (as part of State Cultural Policy and one of the main strategic directions of their implementation), which undoubtedly should cover the total area of the country’s museum space

·         In order to improve the museum reform process, it is first necessary to make changes to the “Law on Cultural Heritage Protection of Georgia” and especially to the “Law on Museums of Georgia” adopted in 2001 and considered as outdated in regards to the transformation of Georgian museums (in some cases, stipulations contradict one another within the same law, or stipulations of the related laws); namely, following issues should be regulated:

-         Clear definition of museum terminology

-         Identification of each museum’s status, its level of independence and authority, (this is currently disregarded by legislation in place)

-         Identification of criteria for establishing museum-reserves and their protective zones  

-         Definition of museum copyright issues

-         Legislative changes enabling museums to carry out entrepreneurial activities (partially);

-         Alienation (including sale) of the museum buildings in the state ownership and of the museums exhibits and other issues of law in force need further perfection. 

  • A commission of museum experts, the creation of which (despite repeated requests and recommendations from the Georgian museum community) has been ignored, must be established within the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia. This commission must closely collaborate with different governmental and non-governmental institutions, with international organizations and civil society, supporting all aspects of cooperation (including financial investments), which will ensure sustainable development for the museums. In addition, monitoring and evaluation of Museum Policy must be based on clearly-defined criteria rather than personal taste;   

·         Democratic decision-making principles should be established, and museum management should to be carried out based on impartially existing regularities and terms. In case of need – public consultations regarding museum establishment and further development should be formed (discussions, debates, conferences, media coverage, etc.)

·         Museum Reform should be implemented while taking into consideration specifics, locality, resources and potential of each museum, as well as recognizing the importance for further rehabilitation and development of this or that particular region

  • In spite of the economic crisis, it would be advisable to considerably increase state programme funding and to issue a call for grants by the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia in accordance with the priorities of the Museum Reform for modernization and development of Georgian museums. It should be noted that despite the fact that, apart from the rehabilitation of the heritage sites, “The Programme of Museum Reform” was identified as one of the strategic priorities of the State Programme of Cultural Heritage Protection (2004), and yet no financing was made available within this programme for museum development and their specific activities until 2009. Although the previous leadership of the Ministry found minimum resources (270 000 GEL) for museums in 2009, they are quite insufficient for the efficient changes of the present situation
  • Museum independence should be enhanced, and relations with state or other institutions should be regulated accordingly. It should be noted that in 2005-2007, 38 museums and museum-reserves of the country were established as Legal Public Entities, but now their number is only 25, since, in opposition to decentralisation in other cultural fields, 11 museums are united in Georgian National Museum and 14 museums – in the structure of The Georgian National Agency of Cultural Heritage (established in 2008). These changes annulled not only their legal status, but their independence as well (including financial issues)
  • It would be desirable to give National Museum status to the largest museums (with the most important collections) in ten regions, in order to actually carry out decentralization and transform the museums into cultural and educational centres of these regions - with international experience of museum management and innovative models of administration

·         Museums should be VAT-exempted: from taxation of supportive economic activities profit (supportive economic activities as specified in the active the legislation and not full transition to entrepreneurial activities);

  • In order to create proper conditions for museums’ sustainable development and implementation of their missions, close collaborations between museums and various institutions should be supported. Apart from state, philanthropic, Museum Friend organizations and charitable funds, the main partners of museum space should be: primary and higher schools, universities, tourism agencies, publishing houses and other industrial producers of museum products, international professional institutions (UNESCO, ICOM, various ICOM International Committees, ICOMOS, ICCROM, etc.) and funds
  • Special attention should be paid to the professional training and practice of the museums’ staff, and attraction of new competitive staff, in order to increase the efficiency of institutional activities. Well-trained and/or new staff will share international experience in the museum field and adapt it to the Georgian reality
  • Intensive social integration is one of the priorities of the Museum Reform. Only this process can help liberate museums from the outdated, elitist perspective of the last century; to develop new methods of museum materials appreciation and to create non-traditional educational programmes for visitors of all ages and social groups; this is crucial for museums’ further development, for obtaining additional financial support and commercial skills – accordingly, for responding to the challenges of new museum practice
  • Modernization of the museum into a living and efficient organism requires differential approaches and support for the establishment of specific museum infrastructure. Basic components necessary for museum visitors (information centres, museum markets or cafes, spaces for educational programmes and other public rooms, etc.) must be included. Today, museums must become intellectual resources for the public to gain knowledge of different cultures, as well as their own national identity.

Although the staff of the Museum Division of the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia, Georgian Museums Association, and ICOM National Committee in Georgia provided the aforementioned proposals and relevant recommendations to the Ministry several times, these efforts to improve the situation brought no results; however, the strategic directions elaborated above regarding Museum Reforms are currently listed on the Ministry’s website.

Certainly, the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia should play a decisive role in solving these problems and issues. It should support elaboration of the Museum Policy and realization of the strategy of national museums development, which (with adequate legislation) can play a leading role not only in the reform process but in the formation of civil society – it is necessary to re-evaluate the attitude towards museums as mere “storages of treasure” and to activate the major goal of museums – communication with public, with its vital interests and spiritual or social demands of the 21st century. Without these changes Georgian museums are at risk of losing their appeal to the public, as well as the ability to maintain collections for future generations.  


RCCHD Project:
Office 16b, Betlemi ascent, 0105 Tbilisi, Georgia
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© 2012 - Eastern Partnership Culture Programme