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ICOFOM Study Series is the journal of ICOFOM, the International Committee for Museology of ICOM. This committee is responsible for the research, study and dissemination of the theoretical bases of museology. It also analyzes the main trends in contemporary museology, including the museum's specific functions and its integration into society. ICOFOM Study Series, published since 1983, is a collection of more than a thousand articles questioning the museum field, its foundations, its specificities and its future. Issues of that journal are thematic, reflecting the themes of the annual international symposia organized by the committee.

ICOFOM was founded in 1977 within ICOM, with the mission, among others, to establish museology as an academic discipline, to study the museum development and that of the museum profession, as well as the role of museums in society. Its first president was Jan Jelinek, former President of ICOM and director of the Anthropos Museum in Brno (Czechoslovakia). From the outset, the role of publications seems central to the committee. It is under the presidency of Vinoš Sofka, close to Jelinek, that a first journal was created, Museological Working papers (MuWop), of which two issues were published (1980-1982), before giving way to the ICOFOM Study Series, the first issue of which was published in 1983. Several prominent figures in museology invested heavily in the journal, contributing many articles. Among these, the presence of the Czech museologist Zbynĕk Stránský is emblematic of the currents of thought of museology in Eastern Europe, then very present in ICOFOM during the first two decades of its existence – with other major figures such as that of Avraam Razgon (USSR) or Klaus Schreiner (GDR), and more recently Ivo Maroević or Tomislav Sola (both from Croatia / Yugoslavia). Other museologists from France – like André Desvallées or Bernard Deloche –, from Africa with Alpha Oumar Konare, from Latin America – with Waldisa Russo, then more recently Tereza Scheiner and Nelly Decarolis – or from the Netherlands (Peter van Mensch who was the third president of ICOFOM) contributed or are still contributing many articles.

In this theoretical perspective, museology has been defined, within ICOFOM and especially following the proposals of Zbynĕk Stránský, as the study of a specific relationship between man and reality, leading him to musealize or, more generally, to select, thesaurize and present a number of elements because of their specific values (or their museality). Such a definition, which is at the heart of ICOFOM's reflections during the 1980s and 2000s, had the particular aim of going beyond the vision of museology as the science (or discipline) of museum. It is in this same perspective that museology is still now defined, within ICOFOM, as a field comprising all attempts at theorization or critical reflection related to the museum field (that definition is included in the Key Concepts of Museology, published by ICOM and available on its website).

The first role of the journal, still unchanged, is to publish the main contributions of symposia organized each year by ICOFOM. Its purpose is based on a general theme ("collecting today for tomorrow", "original and substitutes", "museums and museology", "museology and art", "identity", "futurology", "communication", etc.) to explore the diversity of points of view around the world and to synthesize these subjects. During the first decades of its operation, the journal developed an inclusive vision of museology, opening its pages to all contributors – both professionals and academics – wishing to express themselves on the theme of museology. The world of museology has obviously evolved over the years, and the initial small number of museologists is greatly expanded, particularly through the development of museum studies or museology courses.

It was not until 2006 that the decision to revise the articles by a peer review process was taken; that procedure was coordinated until 2013 by André Desvallées. The logic initiated by Vinoš Sofka was then to publish the ICOFOM Study Series articles before the symposium, so that all the contributions could be read and discussed during that meeting. This method, particularly fruitful for discussions during the symposium, could not be carried on over the years. The introduction of a peer review system has made this exercise even more difficult. In 2013, the decision was taken to partially dissociate the two production times in order to guarantee the seriousness of the evaluation process. The theme of the symposia – and therefore the ICOFOM Study Series issues – is decided by the ICOFOM board, which acts as an editorial board. A call for papers is sent, the abstracts are evaluated by peer review, and the selected authors are invited to present their papers at the symposium, then to submit an article for the journal, which is peer-reviewed and, where appropriate, published the following year. The first issues of ICOFOM established according to this logic were published in 2015 (numbers 43a and 43b), to present the theme of the 2014 symposium.

From the outset, it is the three official languages of ICOM – French, English and Spanish – which have been chosen as languages of publication. Current resources, mostly voluntary (excluding professional proofreading and printing), do not allow the translation of all the articles. Nevertheless, the ICOFOM Study Series can be proud to present contributions from all continents whose authors, if not distributed in a completely uniform way, can really claim to constitute an international network reflecting the diversity of opinions related to the museum field word wide.

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