What is a museum and how can its exhibits, which often include the world's most important cultural properties, be protected from natural disasters, including earthquakes?

Those questions formed the basis of much discussion at the Kyoto assembly of the International Council of Museums, or ICOM, last week. Over 4,000 museum directors, curators, archeologists, historians, anthropologists, art historians and others from around the globe gathered for the weeklong meeting.

The main agenda item was reaching an agreement on what, exactly, a museum is — in order to distinguish such facilities from those designed solely for entertainment or propaganda purposes. The question sounds simple, but reaching agreement on an answer proved difficult.