International Cultural Center and Museum (IKM)

Bente Guro Møller

director of IKM; for the time being national coordinator for the Norwegian Government’s Year of Cultural Diversity 2008

International Cultural Center and Museum (IKM)

Toyenbekkn 5 0180 Oslo Norway

Fight for the nuances

From the exhibition area in the former prison. Display: "I am here" - Immigrant histories from Norway 1945-2001

IKM`s ambition is to promote respect and understanding for cultural diversity. We collect, document and communicate knowledge focusing on immigration history and cultural changes in the Norwegian society. IKM aims at presentation of a wide variety of visual art and cultural traditions. We offer an arena for artists and performers, and a meeting place for professionals and citizens concerned with cultural diversity. Many of our exhibitions can be booked for touring. Children and youths are a primary audience.
The idea of IKM was conceived through my experiences in a multicultural classroom with high school students during the late 1980s. Before 1990 Norway had no museum reflecting the cultural diversity of modern society. Thus IKM (International Culture Centre and Museum) started in 1990 as a Non Governmental Organisation.

"Living together yesterday and to day" Participants on a project on a housing co-operative (1895-1998)

IKM can be regarded as part of the public endeavour to meet the challenges of the new migration. Behind the project was a social idea of a more inclusive society and a conviction that a museum like IKM may contribute to a more nuanced image of refugees and immigrants.
In 1992 IKM received municipal and governmental support to a pilot project, and in 1993 support from the Art Council of Norway to a three year project. In 1994 IKM was transformed into a public foundation and from 1997 received annual support from the Ministry of Culture and the City of Oslo.
A former police station and prison downtown Oslo east was restored. From 1999 on IKM had its own premises there with an exhibition area in the prison cells.
In 2004 IKM was nominated to the European Museum Award, and in 2006 was appointed 
Norwegian Museum of the Year.

"Citizen of the Town, Citizen of the World", community based project with more than 700 participants from 5 to 85 years

According to the jury of The Norwegian Museum Award 2006, IKM is a museum with focus on how the modern and multicultural Norway should understand its own history: "Through the activities of the museum personal life stories from the multicultural Norway is documented, individuals are met and respected in the complicated and complex image of Norway to day. In contact with children and youngsters and by establishing dialogue on different arenas, this museum has succeeded in discussing complicated topics, such as marriage traditions, old age and death. Some times this has been done in the form of large exhibition projects for an extended audience. At other times the museum has chosen a more silent way of doing things with the aim to communicating directly with the target groups.

The museum has also been a pioneer in opening the Norwegian art and cultural scene to the many expressions of contemporary artists from other countries and artists with minority background in Norway, and thus contributed to openness for international and crossover artistic expressions.
IKM has always strived to reflect the ideas of the institution in the composition of board and staff.  In 2006 IKM had a board with five out of nine members with a minority background. Five out of eight fulltime employees had a background from outside Scandinavia. This institutional structure gave us credibility among minority groups and valuable networks.

"Norwegian in 100" - Display on 100 years of Norwegian immigrant history. Humoristic comment on the tension between Indian and Pakistani an immigrants in Norway

Several of our exhibitions include interviews with people about their experiences. Some of these persons were engaged as guides, and thus could tell their story with their own words. This approach gave IKM a network of the co-operators' families and friends. But dialogue with minority groups does not automatically guarantee a nuanced image of difficult topics.  How to decide which voice to present and what sort of items to collect? And what about taboo topics like homosexuality, psychiatric patients and the experiences of war veterans and refugees? We have experienced that multiculturalism is not only about the relationship between majority and minority, but also between ethnic minorities and between minorities within minorities. Usually the majority holds the mirror. It is worthwhile to pass the mirror around and return to the same topics again and again, exposing more and more of the nuances in a modern multicultural society.  IKMs ambition is continually to strive to produce exhibitions which are humoristic, critical and informative on all these groups.


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