Term 'museum' being used too freely

The Museum of Contemporary Arts in Loewen Road, also known as Moca@Loewen.
The Museum of Contemporary Arts in Loewen Road, also known as Moca@Loewen.ST PHOTOS: JOSEPH CHUA

As an art historian, I am obliged to highlight a misnomer in the Report on Moca@Loewen (Museum of Contemporary Arts closes after 9 years, Feb 14).

This concerns the use of the term "museum".

The International Council of Museums (Icom) defines a museum as "a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development... communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment".

However, the report keeps referring to Moca as a "museum".

By Icom's definition, Moca is not a museum, whether private or public, and did not operate like one.

It is a commercial art space and has engaged in the sale of artworks.

Furthermore, the report states that Moca "was the first museum specialising in contemporary art when it opened in 2009".

I believe that the Singapore Art Museum was the first museum in Singapore that specialised in contemporary art when it opened in 1996.

It seems that we have been using the term "museum" rather freely and loosely.

This was also the case with the Museum of Art and Design, which closed in 2017 and was not, by any definition of the term, a museum.

Jeffrey Say Seck Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2019, with the headline 'Term 'museum' being used too freely'. Print Edition | Subscribe