It was in Barcelona, in 1967, that Luis Monreal, curator of the Frederic Marès Museum, first conceived the idea of a nonprofit international organisation that would gather the existing societies of Friends of Museums around the world.
On the occasion of the ninth General Conference of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), held in Paris in 1971, Hugues de Varines – President of the ICOM – and Luis Monreal developed the guidelines of the new organisation, a structure entitled to become a creditable counterpart of museum institutions and of their managing agencies, a transnational association open to diverse operative experiences and to the needs of different cultures.
The first International Congress of Friends of Museums was held in Barcelona in June 1972. The assembly was composed of 150 representatives from 24 societies of Friends of Museums worldwide. This preliminary contact led to the formation of an international working group which agreed on the institution of National Federations of Friends of Museums and to study the text of the Statutes of the future World Federation of Friends of Museums.
In 1975, at the second International Congress in Brussels, the World Federation of Friends of Museums was officially set up, with David Mawson of United Kingdom as its first President. The Statutes were approved by the delegates of six national federations (Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom), and by the representatives of three national associations (Amigos de los Museos, Barcelona, Spain; Committees of Art Museums, Atlanta, USA; Gesellschaft der Freunde des Römish-Germanischen, Mainz, West Germany).
By the time of the third International Congress, held in Florence in 1978, the Council of WFFM, made up of the Presidents or delegates of the national federations – whose number had been steadily increased by the year – clarified the new Federation’s roles and objectives for the future.
From 1980 on, the World Federation of Friends of Museums implemented and extended its influence to countries in every part of the world. New societies of Friends were established in New Zealand, Sweden, India, Brazil, Denmark and Thailand, and new national federations came into being: Argentina, Spain, Greece.
In 1985 WFFM changed part of its Statutes in order to open the organisation to a new category of members: Individual Members.
Reciprocal representation was established between WFFM and its counterpart ICOM; relationships were pursued with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
In 1986 UNESCO’s cultural periodical "Museum" began to issue a regular feature on WFFM’s activities, under the responsibility of the Secretary General of WFFM.
In 1989 the World Federation of Friends of Museums was recognised by UNESCO as an NGO (Non Governmental Organization). WFFM’s initial observer status to ICOM Executive Council meetings had been upgraded over the years to reporting on its activities.
The cooperation with these important similar international organisations has contributed to reinforce the relations between Friends/volunteers and museum professionals, and has helped to establish an effective and reciprocal synergy benefiting the museums, the heritage and the public at large.
In 1996, at the ninth International Congress held in Oaxaca, Mexico, the World Federation of Friends of Museums adopted unanimously the Code of Ethics for Friends and Volunteers of Museums. The document contains the basic principles to which each member needs to comply with, when acting on behalf of his/her association. The WFFM Code of Ethics has been formally welcomed by ICOM, so that in 2001 two articles recognising the role of Friends and promoting joint action have been included in the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums.
In 2002 WFFM published the practical handbook “How to Start a Friends Group” by Carol Serventy, a basic guide to encourage people to start groups of Friends of museums and to band together in a regional association or a national federation.
In 2005, during the twelfth International Congress held in Seville, Spain, WFFM celebrated its 30th anniversary with the publication of the art book “ART DONATIONS – DONATIONS D’ART – DONACIONES DE ARTE”.
WFFM organises a Council and General Assembly Meeting, held once or twice a year, and an International Congress held every three years, each time in a different city of the world.
Each triennial WFFM Congress has been a success and an excellent forum for Friends of museums to meet, exchange information and ideas, gain much needed support and inspiration.
The International Congresses have been held in Barcelona (1972), Brussels (1975), Florence (1978), Birmingham (1981), Paris (1984), Toronto (1987), Cordoba (1990), Treviso (1993), Oaxaca (1996), Sydney (1999), Buenos Aires (2002), and Seville (2005), Jerusalem (2008), and Genoa (2011).
Over the years, WFFM has also promoted several events and initiatives, such as the organisation of meetings and conferences on fundraising, volunteer work, educational activities, and so on.
Since 1975, WFFM has grown steadily in its Active (national federations) and Associate Members (single associations or groups) as well as in Individual membership.
Today WFFM has 18 Active Members, 27 Associate Members and represents over 2 million Museum Friends and Volunteers around the world.
Thanks to this ever-increasing number, WFFM has achieved the role of a key player in the cultural world and has become a “representative of museum-goers” worldwide.
XV International WFFM Congress
May 15-18, 2014, Berlin
XIV International WFFM Congress
Museums and their Friends in the future
The Secretariat is transferred to Jerusalem, Israel
President: Daniel Ben-Natan, Israel
XIII International WFFM Congress
The Relationship between Museums, Friends and Volunteers
September 21-26, Jerusalem, Israel
The Statutes of WFFM are modified in accordance to the new Belgian law.
XII International WFFM Congress
Friends and Museums: Facing New Realities
October 18-22, Seville, Spain
WFFM’s 30th anniversary book is published.
XI International WFFM Congress
Why Friends of Museums?
October 7-11, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The handbook How to Start a Friends Group is published.
2000 - 2008
President: Carla Bossi-Comelli
International WFFM Congress
New Century New Museums: New Friends
September 13-17, Sydney, Australia
1997 - 1999
President: Carol Serventy, Australia
IX International WFFM Congress
Museums of Tomorrow and Their Friends
October 21-25, Oaxaca, Mexico
The Code of Ethics for Friends and Volunteers of Museums is adopted.
1995 - 1996
President: José Pintado Rivero, Mexico
The Role of Friends of Museums
Organised by the Cyprus Federation of Associations of Museums and by WFFM in Nicosia, Cyprus
Spanish is declared third official language of WFFM.
VIII International WFFM Congress
The Renaissance of Community Participation in the Conservation and Promotion of Cultural Heritage
June 1-4, Treviso, Italy
1993 - 1996
President: José Pintado Rivero, Mexico
Issue No. 176 of Museum is entirely dedicated to the Friends of Museums.
VII International WFFM Congress
The Museum: Cultural Point in the City
April 2-6, Cordoba, Spain
1989 - 1992
President: Anna Grandi Clerici, Italy
President: Aristotele Phrydas, Greece
VI International WFFM Congress
Metamorphosis: The Challenge of Change
June 15-19, Toronto, Canada
President: Georges Spentsas, Greece
Museum quarterly review edited by UNESCO and printed in four languages, starts a regular feature on WFFM
The Institution and Its Mission, Challenges and Opportunities
Organised by the Friends of the Benaki Museum
November 23-26, Athens, Greece
The Statutes are modified to open WFFM to new categories of members.
President: Edmund Bovey, Canada
First WFFM Delegate for young people: Jérôme Tréca, France
V International WFFM Congress
Which Public? For Which Museums? With Which Friends?
July 2-6, Paris, France
1984 – 1986
President: Edmund Bovey, Canada
The General Secretariat is transferred to Paris, France
IV International WFFM Congress
Friends and their Heritage
June 14-21, Birmingham, United Kingdom
1981 – 1983
President: Francis Huré, France
The General Secretariat is transferred to Norwich, United Kingdom.
III International WFFM Congress
Environment, Cultural Heritage, Permanent Education
June 6-11, Florence, Italy
II International WFFM Congress
Contacts between Museums and Associations
June 16-21, Brussels, Belgium
The World Federation of Friends of Museums is founded and its Statutes approved.
Official languages: French, English. It is agreed to issue a biennial WFFM bulletine.
1975 - 1980
President: David Mawson, United Kingdom
I International Congress of Friends of Museums
June 19-23, Barcelona, Spain
It is decided to work on the Statutes of a World Federation and to establish national federations. Six of them are created between 1972 and 1975.
In Barcelona, Spain, the idea of a World Federation of Friends of Museums is conceived, thanks to the society Amics dels Museus and to one of its members, Luis Monreal, curator of the Frederic Marès Museum, together with Count Boël from Belgium.