UMTWS 2021: How University Museums Respond and Adapt before and after COVID


The fourth edition of UMTWS (University Museums Training Week Shanghai) took place from May 14 to May 18 this year. UMTWS results from a partnership created in 2017 between ICOM-UMAC (Committee of University Museums and Collections) and the Qian Xuesen Library and Museum of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (QLM-SJTU). The training courses aim at promoting professional development among university museum professionals in China and Asia. Dozens of university museum professionals and researchers have participated in the past editions and the themes have covered the most important areas of museum contemporary theory, practice and ethics.

UMTWS 2021 offered online courses this year. The general theme of this year’s program was “BEFORE AND AFTER COVID: HOW UNIVERISTY MUSEUMS RESPOND AND ADAPT”. UMTWS 2021 aims to open a platform for all participants to join and share how you have endured the pandemic and what has prepared you for the new normal. With different voices and inputs, UMTWS 2021 enables participants to consider what Covid-19 means for university museums and collections, what have been achieved and what the next steps should be. The topics covered the new emerging museumsand projects, multiplicities of access for the public, digital inclusion/exclusion through technology, higher education sector shaping university museums and with a particular session about how university museums behaved in the national museum accreditation last year.

Thanks to the accessibility and flexibility of online mode, UMTWS 2021 can invite lecturers from all over the world to share and compare. 18 speakers from 11 countries joined the 5-day program. It’s also for the first time that UMTWS had a speaker from a university museum in Africa. 26 participants from 13 provinces in China took the online courses.


UMAC president Marta Lourenço, stated the UMTWS are very important for UMAC for at least two reasons. The first reason is that anywhere in the world, highly trained university museum professionals are a top priority for UMAC. Better trained staff means better museums, better exhibitions, better collections, more diverse audiences, better universities and of course a better world. The second reason is to increase international visibility of Chinese university museums. China has innovative university museums in the arts, sciences and humanities. UMAC is committed to bringing Chinese university museums increasingly into the international sphere, particularly among the ICOM and UMAC communities.

Kai Zhang,  the executive director of QLM, remarked in the opening that the training was postponed one year because of the pandemic. This fourth edition of online courses is also a response to the impact of COVID-19. The online approach still well-received by participants and speakers is also manifest of adaptability and resilience of the university museum sector in the pandemic.

An Laishun, the vice president of ICOM, took part in the opening session and delivered a brief speech about museums in general after COVID-19.

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