IMA Annual Conference

About the conference

We hold our main annual conference each spring in a different location across Ireland.

This themed conference is the most significant event for the Irish museum community. It presents an opportunity for museum professionals, academics, and practitioners from the wider cultural landscape to network, share knowledge and expertise, and influence the development of the sector.

The conference both informs and is informed by the overall programme of the IMA, reflecting on issues of interest to the Irish museums community and the wider cultural sectors. 

Call for papers Athlone 2020

Our 2020 IMA Annual Conference, Transforming Museums, will be held at the Dean Crowe Theatre and Arts Centre in Athlone on 21 and 22 February, in association with Athlone Arts and Tourism. 

Deadline receipt of submissions:  Noon, 02 October 2019

Conference location: Athlone

Conference dates:  21 and 22 February 2020

The Irish Museums Association (IMA) invites individual or session presentations proposals for the IMA Annual Conference 2020, to be held in Athlone on 21 and 22 February 2020. Proposals may be for 20-minute individual presentations or 50-minute sessions.

The IMA annual conference is the main gathering of the Irish museum sector. It aims to provide a platform for critical dialogue around the role and purpose of museums and inform sectoral agendas, while assisting museums with their thinking and planning as they realise their full potential.

Successful proposals will respond to the conference theme and offer innovative approaches that will inspire and encourage dynamic and constructive discussions. 


Conference Theme:

The museum of the past must be set aside, reconstructed, transformed from a cemetery of bric-a-brac to a nursery of living thoughts. The museum of the future must stand side by side with the library and the laboratory.’ - Smithsonian curator George Brown Goode, 1889. 

In recent decades there has been a major shift towards a user-led philosophy within museum practice. How can we encourage and drive this culture change from within our institutions, and also adapt to the changing cultural context in which our institutions exist? Is it time to reimagine the place of the museum and its functions? Who will shape that vision?

More than ever, museums are directly engaging with topics of social change. Does this signal a shift in museums’ identities and roles? Is it a nimble response to public demand? Or is it a strategic evolution toward a future concept of what museums could and should be?

From high-level strategy to on-the-ground implementation, this conference will seek to explore what are the attitudes, partnerships and collaborations that can drive development and redraw the museum’s boundaries. How we plan to navigate the accelerated levels of change around us while also maintaining our commitment to positive aspects of our historical legacy. 

Goode’s call for museums to evolve into a more relevant, approachable, contemporary resource for the public are, to a certain extent, unrealised. By exploring what museums can be and what are the barriers to us achieving this, we pose the question: as we look towards ‘Ireland 2040’, what will museums of twenty years from now look like?


Please email your submission to by noon, 02 October 2019  

Preferred format: Word Document


  • Title of presentation
  • Presentation abstract (250 words max.)
  • Session format
  • Speaker(s) biography (150 words max.)
  • Contact details (email and telephone number)

If submitting a session proposal, please indicate clearly in Session format whether it is a panel, interview, interjections, provocations, etc. Sessions should have no more than 5 people including session chair.

Notification of selection will be within 14 days of the closing date for submissions.

Selected presentations must be delivered in person. The language of the conference is English.



Details of previous IMA conferences are online at For further information or if you wish to discuss your proposal, contact the conference convenor:

Gina O'Kelly | Irish Museums Association |11 Parnell Square East, Dublin D01 ND60

Tel: + 353 (0)1 873 4216  |  Email:

The conference advisory panel is formed by members of the IMA board of directors: William Blair, National Museums Northern Ireland; Ian Brunswick, Science Gallery; Riann Coulter, FE McWilliam Gallery & Studio. External advisors are Brian Crowley, Kilmainham Gaol – OPW and Carmel Duffy, Athlone Arts & Tourism.


The Irish Museums Association gratefully acknowledges the core funding provided by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and The Heritage Council. The 2020 conference is additionally supported by Athlone Arts & Tourism.

  • IMA Conference Advisory group

    The IMA annual conference is supported by an advisory group of museum and higher education professionals. For 2020, these are Gina O'Kelly, Irish Museums Association; William Blair, NMNI; Lar Joye, Dublin Port Authority; Ian Brunswick, Science Gallery; Riann Coulter, F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio; Carmel Duffy, Athlone Arts and Tourism and Brian Crowley, Kilmainham Gaol Museum.