Learn to Use Your ICOMOS Card

Going someplace this summer? If so, do not forget to use your ICOMOS card. After an informal poll of our members, I was surprised at how many are not aware of the strong advantages of doing so.

Using your card is remarkably simple. No advance reservations are needed for entry into the World Heritage Site, museum, or other historic sites that you wish to visit. Simply show your card at the entrance. If they do not wave you through, ask politely if they honor the card. At less frequently visited museums and historic sites, they might have to check. There are even some major sites that do not accept the card, but they will not be offended if you try.

At some of the largest and most established museums and historic sites in Europe and the United States, there are special entrances for Priority Access or Members Access. No advance registration is needed to use these entrances with the ICOMOS card! Advance registration is typically required now for general visitors. Normal entry lines, even with advance registration, are often extremely long.

In the photograph here, you see the signage used to identify Priority Access at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Virtually all the other museums in Paris, from the Louvre to the Centre Pompidou, have these entrances well.

Look for these Priority Access entrances everywhere in France, not only Paris, and, in fact, everywhere in Europe and major U.S. cities. An example in New York City is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They also exist in other regions of the world.

At less-visited museums and historic sites, lines are shorter, so a special entrance is not needed. When you visit those sites, simply show your card at the entrance used by everyone. I recently presented my ICOMOS card at the New York Transit Museum and they were happy to honor it.

A complete list of all the sites that honor the ICOMOS’s card has never been formulated: there are simply too many. They include most World Heritage Sites around the world along with the major museums and historic sites and others that you might not even have heard of.

Having been traveling and out of the country quite a bit recently, I can tell you that major museums are packed. People who have not been able to travel because of COVID are now flooding major tourist attractions. Using your ICOMOS card, you can leave if you are tired of crowds and return later. If you happen to be passing by a major museum and would like to walk in for a 45-minute visit, you can do so. The advantages of using your ICOMOS card has never been greater.

So, how do you use your card?

First, obtain an ICOMOS card by becoming a member of ICOMOS-USA. You can join or rejoin here. Be sure to send a headshot photo (shoulders up, against a plain background) to our manager to quickly receive an e-card. Submit your photo to manager [at] icomos-usa.org.

Secondly, look for Priority Access or Members Access entrances at museums and historic sites that you would like to visit. If you see those entrances, use them.

Finally, show your card at all museums and historic sites you visit. Simply ask if they honor the ICOMOS card if you are not waved through. Sometimes, instead of fee entry, they will offer a reduced entrance fee. Be extremely polite, no matter what the response, but understand that even if they do not honor the card, they will not resent your attempt. They might ask you about ICOMOS, and this will give you an opportunity to talk about the organization and what it does.

Enjoy the summer and the off-season travel in the year ahead. Being an ICOMOS-USA member and using your card is an entryway into the global network of those who seriously support culture and the arts.

Douglas C. Comer, PhD, President of ICOMOS-USA and World Heritage USA

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