This paper was delivered at an ICOM conference on Transnational Museum Collaboration, held at Fudan University, Shanghai, 26-27 June 2007. It argues that, in an age in which culture is more important than ever before, skills in reading culture must be a vital part of education. This sets a new agenda for collaboration between cultural providers like museums, both internationally, and with other sectors like education. It also sets a new agenda that governments and others must address.
As high profile incidents and misunderstandings have shown, more than the opinion columns and leaders in our broadsheets, it is culture by which we engage with people from other countries. Culture has emerged not as a subsidiary to politics, but as a space in which politics must be conducted. It is not a case of culture being put at the service of politics, but rather of culture being a determinant part of politics. In particular, this paper outlines what skills we need to navigate this world, and what this means for museums, and the future of the museum profession.