Draft:International Coalition of Sites of Conscience

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International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
FounderRuth J. Abram
TypeNon-Profit Association
FocusMuseums, Historic Sites, Memory Initiatives
  • 55 Exchange Place, Suite 404, New York, NY 10005
Area served
United States of America, Asia, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Africa

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (also known as “The Coalition” or “ICSC”) is a global network of historic sites, museums, and memorials that use history to address contemporary human rights issues. The Coalition is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit in the United States.[2] The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience is an affiliated organization of the International Council of Museums and maintains consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.[3]

The Coalition supports its member sites through funding and training pilot programs to address human rights. It also provides consulting services to museums and cultural institutions in the areas of public dialogue programming, strategic planning, interpretative planning, and exhibition design. The Coalition has over 200 member sites.[4] The Coalition won the 2009 ICOM-US International Service Citation. The ICOM-US International Service Citation was introduced in 1999 and is presented when a person, museum, or other organization is nominated whose work has promoted international relations and has had a significant impact within the museum field.


The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience was founded in 1999 by Ruth Abram, Founder of the Tenement Museum.[5] She organized a week-long conference in Bellagio, at the Rockefeller Foundation’s conference center in Italy where leaders of nine historic sites came together to sign this founding statement:

'“We are historic site museums in many different parts of the World, at many stages of development, presenting and interpreting a wide variety of historic issues, events and people. We hold in common the belief that it is the obligation of historic sites to assist the public in drawing connections between the history of our sites and its contemporary implications. We view stimulating dialogue on pressing social issues and promoting humanitarian and democratic values as a primary function. To advance this concept, we have formed an International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience to work with one another.”[6] [7]Ruth Abram founded the Tenement Museum and The Coalition based on her belief that museums “can and should be more than repositories of the past; they should also provide insight into the present and inspire hope for the future.”[8]


The current Executive Director is Elizabeth Silkes.[9] The Coalition is based in New York City. Doudou Diène, former UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, is Chair of the Coalition’s Board.[10][11]

Membership and Programs[edit]

The 9 founding members are The Tenement Museum (USA), The Gulag Museum at Perm-36(Russia), House of Slaves known as Maison des Esclaves (Senegal), The Workhouse (England), Memoria Abierta (Argentina), District Six Museum (South Africa), National Park Service (USA), Terezin Memorial (Czech Republic), and the Liberation War Museum (Bangladesh)

This initial group of nine members spanned eight countries. Currently, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience says it has over 250 members. All members are listed on the organization’s website. [1] The Coalition organizes its members into seven regions: Africa; Asia; Europe; Latin America & the Caribbean; Middle East and North Africa; North America; and Russia. Members conduct joint projects and create exhibits.[12] The North American region has collaborated on projects that focus on immigration and the school to prison pipeline. Recently, they hosted Brown to Board v. Ferguson which coordinated with 11 cultural centers in the United States to host intergenerational dialogue events from 2015-2018.[13] This program was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as was the National Dialogues on Immigration program which launched in January 2014.[14] The National Dialogues on Immigration was a coordinated initiative by The Coalition working with twenty museums and historic sites to host programming about historical and present-day immigration.[15] [16] [17]

In 2016, The Coalition began working with Maison Des Esclaves to renovate the historic slave house, update the exhibits and improve the educational center with a Ford Foundation grant.[18] The renovation is a three-year project with estimated completion in 2019. The new exhibit will share the wider story of the transatlantic slave trade.

The Coalition was hired by the City of Fredericksburg, VA in 2018 to audit and analyze the display and interpretation of the slave auction block in the town. The Coalition hosted a number of public dialogues where the Fredericksburg community talked about the auction block and the history of slavery to determine whether the auction block should be moved to a location where the history of slavery can be more fully told or if it should stay at its location.[19]

Transitional Justice[edit]

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience also leads the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth, and Reconciliation (GIJTR), a consortium of nine international organizations that respond in multi-disciplinary ways to the transitional justice needs of societies emerging from conflict or periods of authoritarian rule. GIJTR helps facilitate community-based programs such as violence prevention workshops, art therapy, psychosocial support, community-based memorialization initiatives, and dialogue facilitation for local civil society organizations that seek to help communities heal from recent or ongoing conflict.[20] Memorialization and memory are essential to healing from conflict and constructing peaceful futures.[21] The GIJTR initiative developed from studies that analyzed connections between memorials, civic engagement, and transitional justice mechanisms through youth engagement programs hosted by Sites of Conscience members.[22] Through all of its programs, including GIJTR, the Coalition aims to use collective memory, place, and local history.

A Global Movement[edit]

Sometimes the phrase “site(s) of conscience” in lowercase is used broadly to denote a historical place, museum or cultural institution that connects past to present, and incorporates past history and contemporary human rights atrocities into programming for civic engagement and advocacy. Similar to official members of the Coalition, which are formally known as Sites of Conscience, these places may work to “[uncover] places of pain and shame in American history” and connect them to today’s movements for social justice.[23][24]


  1. ^ "Guidestar Profile for International Coalition of Sites of Conscience". Guidestar Profile. Guidestar by Candid. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  2. ^ "INTERNATIONAL COALITION OF SITES OF CONSCIENCE". GuideStar. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  3. ^ "Affiliated Organization: International Coalition of SItes of Conscience". International Council of Museums. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  4. ^ Golding, Viv. "Collaborative Museums: Curators, Communities, Collections". In Golding, Viv; Modest, Wayne (eds.). Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections and Collaboration. London: Bloomsbury. p. 1972. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  5. ^ "History of the Tenement Museum". C-SPAN American History. September 5, 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  6. ^ Ruth J. Abram (2002). Sandell, Richard (ed.). Museums, Society, Inequality. London: Routledge. p. 125. ISBN 9781134509089. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  7. ^ Hirsch, Marianne; Miller, Nancy K. (2011-11-29). Rites of Return: Diaspora Poetics and the Politics of Memory. Columbia University Press. p. 15–16. ISBN 9780231521796.
  8. ^ Dembling, Sophia (November 19, 2014). "Ruth Abram: Explaining Today through Stories of Yesterday". Saving Places. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Elizabeth Silkes". Reimagining the Museum. El Museo Reimaginado. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  10. ^ "The UNESCO International Youth Forum took place in Changsha and Quanzhou, China". UNESCO. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Biography: Doudou Diène". ACLU. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  12. ^ Snow, Dan (August 30, 2018). "A Conversation with Linda Norris". History Hit. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Brown v. Board to Ferguson Toolkit". International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  14. ^ "September 2015 Grant Announcement" (PDF). Office of Museum Services. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  15. ^ ""About"". Dialogues on Immigration. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  16. ^ Sarah Pharaon (2018). Bailey, Dina (ed.). Interpreting Immigration at Museums and Historic Sites. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 1–24. ISBN 9781442263253. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  17. ^ McKeever, Amy (July 19, 2016). "Eastern State Penitentiary and the Critique of Mass Incarceration". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Maison des Esclaves". Center for Cultural Landscapes. University of Virginia, School of Architecture. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  19. ^ Jett, Cathy (8 January 2019). "Community finds common ground on Fredericksburg's controversial slave auction block". Fredericksburg Free-Lance Starr. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  20. ^ Naidu, Ereshnee (2015). The Contribution of Art and Culture in Peace and Reconciliation Processes in Asia. Centre for Culture and Development, Denmark. p. 55. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  21. ^ Naidu, Ereshnee (August 2006). "The Ties That Bind: Strengthening the Links Between Memorialization and Transitional Justice" (PDF). The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  22. ^ Hamber, Brandon; Ševčenko, Liz; Naidu, Ereshnee (1 November 2010). "Utopian Dreams or Practical Possibilities? The Challenges of Evaluating the Impact of Memorialization in Societies in Transition". International Journal of Transitional Justice. 4 (3): 397–420. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijq018.
  23. ^ Max Page (Fall 2015). "Sites of Conscience: Shockoe Bottom, Manzanar, and Mountain Meadows". Preservation Magazine.
  24. ^ "Dark Tourism and Sites of Conscience". ABC NET Australia. July 8, 2010.