President's Page : Stephen C White

   3rd Quarter 2016

Dear colleagues,

In the northern hemisphere, this time of year signals summer and the high season at most maritime museums.  Visitors pour over our historic vessels, new exhibitions open to great fanfare, and late sunsets mean extended use of our facilities.  Meanwhile, very quietly and hardly noticed by the summer activity, hours and hours of meaningful maritime archaeology continue on new sites presenting unusual and unique maritime heritage.  The finds contain the stories that add deeper meaning to our understanding of our maritime past and some of the more significant maritime events. 

Business first

Before we delve deeper into the theme for this President's letter, there are two business items to highlight.  By now you will have received your invoice to renew your ICMM Membership if you have been an active member or associate member.  Lapsed members should also have received the invitation to renew a membership, provided that we had the proper email or mailing address.  It is important for the integrity of the organisation to renew one’s membership as quickly as possible.  We had a strong increase in renewals last year, and we are hoping to build upon that success in 2016.  Additionally, you can help out the organisation by encouraging maritime museums in your region to become active ICMM members.  If you are reading this newsletter but have never been a member or an associate member and would like to join, please email your intentions to our Secretary General, Sally Archer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I am pleased to announce that within the next month or so, we will launch a new website which will provide our members with additional functionality and a number of new features that will enhance our ability to share more pertinent information with our membership.  Stay tuned and help us populate the website with news from your museum or organisation.

Maritime archaeology

For many years, ICMM has provided leadership and standards for objects and exhibitions related to a wide range of maritime archaeology projects.  Chris Dobbs, chair of the ICMM Archaeology Committee sums it up this way, "ICMM's Maritime Archaeology committee was initially formed to provide advice for ICMM members on the ethics of accepting exhibitions that might have shipwreck material originating from investigations where the excavation procedures had attracted controversy such as BELITUNG and TITANIC.  However the remit has now widened and the current focus is developing a code of practice for ICMM in relation to Maritime Archaeology.  This will make it easier for members to understand the ethical issues in advance." 

It is important that ICMM along with its other partners worldwide, such as the Council of American Maritime Museums (CAMM) continue its efforts to promote maritime archaeology that adheres to the highest standards and provides opportunity for access to this work to our public.

There is a considerable amount of important maritime archaeology currently underway such as CONESTOGA (USA), MARS, aka MAKALOS (Sweden), HMS EREBUS (Canada), LORD SANDWICH Ex-ENDEAVOR (USA), and whaleships being exposed by receding Artic ice, to name just a few.  We will highlight some of these in this newsletter, but there is much to read online and new exhibitions to visit such as the MARY ROSE in Portsmouth and Nan Hai #1 in China, a site many of us visited during one of the post-congress tours after ICMM Hong Kong 2015.

We hope that you enjoy the archaeology focus of recent posts on our Update pages. In our next newsletter which will be sent by email at the start of the 4th Quarter of 2016 we will delve into be the use of traditional and historic ships by individuals, museums, and educational organisations.  It’s a broad and meaningful topic, and ICMM members will share their perspective on this subject, led by the International Historic & Traditional Ships Panel of ICMM.

Thank you for your interest in ICMM and enjoy the next few months regardless of your hemisphere!

Fair winds, 

Steve White (Mystic Seaport)  



Previous letters from the President

April 2016

Dear colleagues,

The Executive Council of ICMM met in Greenwich, March 13-14, to conduct its annual business.  Additionally, we convened a general assembly by teleconference at 12:00pm on March 14th, as required by our new Constitution.  The International Historic & Traditional Ships Panel also met on March 12 in Greenwich and the Maritime Archaeology Committee on March 14.

The newly elected EC considered a lengthy agenda, some of which was operational, of course, but much of it was more strategic in nature.  We took this opportunity to review what our operational mandates are, and also discussed strategic priorities for this year and going forward.  For ICMM, our top priorities are 1) continue to build a strong participatory membership, 2) improve both the regularity and content of our communications, 3) refresh the ICMM website with respect to infrastructure and content, and 4) prepare for the 2017 Congress in Valparaiso.  A strategic priority is to enhance the organization’s role as an advocate for maritime heritage.


I’d like to thank Hanna Hagmark-Cooper (Aland Maritime Museum) for chairing the Membership Committee which will focus on outreach to current and lapsed members to help create a robust and sustaining membership.  The membership ranks have grown steadily over the past two years, but there are still a number of museums, both small and large, around the globe that should be members of ICMM.  To those of you who have been loyal members we thank you, and to non-members who are reading this newsletter, please do consider responding favorably to the request to become a paid member.  In fairly short order, we will be mailing out membership letters and invoices, and I ask that you respond promptly. Membership dues will remain constant for the third year in a row.  I’d also like to thank Frits Loomeijer and Martin Hartog (Maritime Museum Rotterdam) for handling all of the membership paperwork and the organization’s treasury. 


I’d like to thank Marika Hedin (Gustavianum Museum – Uppsala) for chairing the Communication Committee and embracing the challenge of enhancing communication with our members and the broader maritime world.  One of the important goals for ICMM is to create an active network of professionals dedicated to maritime heritage, and in order to do so, we must communicate with you and each other on a timely basis regarding topics that matter to you.  To that end, we will publish four newsletters each year, some are operational (like this one) and others more strategic, but all the while trying to push information to you rather than rely merely on the website.  While the website will be a helpful directory of information, the goal of the newsletter is to provide an opportunity for all of us to share our personal perspective on a wide range of maritime heritage themes.


I wish to thank Kevin Sumption (Australia National Maritime Museum) and Alan Edenborough (Sydney Heritage Fleet) for their continued efforts to enhance ICMM’s website.  ANMM hosts our website at no cost to ICMM or its members, and Alan volunteers his time to keep the website as current as possible.  Both Kevin and Alan have dedicated a tremendous amount of time of late updating both the framework on which the website exists as well as the content.  Going forward, the Editorial Committee headed by Ursula Warnke (German Maritime Museum) will provide new material for the website and for the quarterly newsletter.  I wish to thank the committee for its efforts to collect relevant information from around the world that our membership and other readers will find to be timely and informational.

2017 Congress

I wish to thank Cristian del Real Perez (Museo Maritimo Nacional – Valparaiso, Chile) and the Chilean Navy for agreeing to host our 2017 Congress to be held October 15-20.  It will be our first time in South America, and I ask all members to please put our bi-annual event on your calendar and to plan for the expense in your budgets.  The program planning committee is already beginning its work under the direction of Kristen Greenaway (Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum).  The theme for the program and the congress is DISCOVERIES! which is appropriate for our first congress in South America as we discover the rich and diverse maritime history of a country that includes the iconic Cape Horn.  Please visit our website from time to time to see more information regarding this important congress.

International Maritime Organization

Following the Executive Council’s work in Greenwich, representatives from the EC met with IMO officials in their London headquarters, including new Secretary General, Kitack Lim, and Division Director Frederick Kenney, who was our closing keynote speaker in Hong Kong in November.  Our meeting was to follow up on Admiral Kenney’s offer in Hong Kong to open up channels of conversation in the spirit of advocating for a range of maritime heritage matters.  Of particular interest to us was the manner in which IMO and ICMM could build upon our respective communities and advocacy within them.  As a for instance, IMO annually designates World Maritime Day; this year it is September 29, 2016.  They also celebrate on June 25th as the Day of the Seafarer.  We also discussed the possibility of an International Year of Maritime Heritage celebration with the potential of 2018 being so designated.  It was a most positive and productive meeting, and I know that much will come of it.

For museums and other entities who seek to actively use historic vessels, we know that there are significant regulatory challenges we face in our own regions.  Our conversations with IMO helped us understand that there may well be a path towards clarifying the needs of our historic vessels as well as reviewing the manner in which regulations could potentially be adjusted while also addressing the critical requirement of safety.  An outcome of our meeting will be to engage IMO delegates in conversations at the national level.  Additionally, we discussed the importance of UNESCO recognition of historic vessels.  It’s a complicated matter, but I’m pleased to report there is a willingness to discuss creative ideas at the international policy level to consider the recognition of historic vessels in some manner.

Looking Ahead

Our next newsletter will focus on underwater archaeology and some of the extraordinary work currently being undertaken by a number of nations of late.  I wish to thank Chris Dobbs (Mary Rose Museum) for chairing the Archaeology Committee, and he is joined by a host of other ICMM members who have great expertise in this area.  It’s important that we bring attention to those current projects that are meeting the CAMM/ICMM archaeological standards and which provide significant content to the maritime community.  I mention as examples the wreck of the Conestoga (US), the remains of one of John Franklin’s ships (Canada), and the Mars Makalos (Sweden).

In closing, please look for your 2016 membership materials, and please respond quickly.

Fair winds, 

Steve White (Mystic Seaport)



Previous letters from the President

November 2015 – after the ICMM Hong Kong Congress

Dear colleagues,

First of all, it was marvellous to see so many of you in Hong Kong for the 2015 Congress in early November, and I wish to thank those present for the confidence that you have shown in me to serve as president of the organization.  We know ICMM to be an important member organization that serves a critical role as a means for communication, professional networking, and advocacy.  For over forty years now the organization and the Congresses have provided maritime museum professionals with a means for collaboration, which in turn leads us on a pathway to embrace best practice.

Regarding the 2015 Congress in Hong Kong, we wish to thank the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and its community for their exemplary efforts in hosting such a comprehensive Congress, led by museum director Richard Wesley (an ICMM Executive Council member), supported by his extraordinary HKMM team, Swire Travel, and a host of impressive sponsors.  

We will long remember both the setting and the program that fully embraced the theme of connections.  Of course, Victoria Harbour was the perfect setting for such a theme and for the first Congress held in Asia.  The combination of outstanding presentations delivered in a room with three picture windows looking out onto the bustling harbor gave our 100+ attendees the best of both worlds: inspirational papers and an inspiring setting.  

In Hong Kong, we explored the past and the heritage of trade while looking from the present and into the future in a port that is one of the global leaders in maritime trade today. In this environment, we were confronted with the juxtaposition of past and present, and thanks to a well-planned Congress, including our trip to Macau and to several museums in Macau and Hong Kong, the overall program illuminated our understanding of these parallel worlds.

Congress Keynotes

Our two keynote speakers also took us on a voyage through an appreciation of our rich maritime heritage in addition to the present challenges facing the use of our seas.  Lincoln Paine, author of The Sea and Civilisation: A Maritime History of the World (2013) gave us much to think about regarding our global maritime history and the responsibility of maritime museums to express the tremendous depth and breadth of that heritage in a manner that is compelling and relevant.  He also shared with us four key reasons why maritime museums are important today, but that is a subject for another article. 

Frederick Kenney, Director, Legal Affairs and External Relations Division for the International Maritime Organization (IMO), helped us understand the important mission of IMO, its priorities moving forward, and how collaboration between IMO and ICMM might well be mutually beneficial. There is great opportunity here for ICMM to exercise its voice as an effective advocate for international maritime matters. 

The program committee, led by Nigel Rigby of Royal Museums Greenwich, provided us with a robust and deep program for which we are most grateful.  Steps are underway to gather the abstracts of the presentations to be posted on this website so that those of you who could not join us would have the opportunity to get a sense of what we enjoyed in Hong Kong. If an abstract looks interesting to you, please contact the presenter directly for more information on the paper. I also encourage all of you who did attend the Hong Kong Congress to complete the conference evaluation form, as your input is enormously helpful as we craft the next Congress.  In case you’ve lost yours, please click here to obtain a printable copy.

Leadership team 2015-2017

Some twenty countries joined us for the Congress, which is impressive in its own right for a destination far away for so many of the delegates.  It is a real testament to the leadership of outgoing president Kevin Fewster, who infused a tremendous amount of energy and direction into our organization over the past two years so that we might sustain the original mission of ICMM and continue to move forward. I wish to thank Kevin and his Executive Council for their work in addressing some of the challenges that any volunteer organization like ICMM faces when it comes to administrative work.  

I’m happy to announce the new leadership for the organization, and please click here to see the entire membership of the Executive Council, both those members who were elected in accordance with the organization’s constitution, and those who have been co-opted to join us in our work. 

I wish to thank Marika Hedin of the Museum Gustavianum for agreeing to serve as Vice President, Frits Loomeijer (Maritiem Museum Rotterdam) as interim Treasurer, and Sally Archer (Royal Museums Greenwich) as the Secretary General. We have much to work on over the next several months, and the Executive Council will have its annual meeting in mid-March at its usual location of Greenwich, England.  In my next newsletter, I will lay out some of the priorities for the Executive Council in 2016, but it’s important that we hear from you regarding those areas within the organization that through modification could better serve your needs as a member.  In addition, please let us know if you are willing to serve the organization in some capacity.

Membership reminder

I close by saying thank you to all of you who are paying members of ICMM. As always, it will be a priority for us to continue to grow the membership so that we have the resources required to function well as a member-based organization. Those of you who have read this far and realize that you may not be listed as a member organization, you can check that by clicking here; if you are not on the list please remit your membership subscription payment as soon as possible. The membership rates are here.

Stephen C. White,

President and CEO, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.