Jane Arthur, museums and heritage consultant - Museums Association

Conference 2024: The Joy of Museums booking open now – Book before 31 March 2024 for a 10% discount

Conference 2024: The Joy of Museums booking open now – Book before 31 March 2024 for a 10% discount

Jane Arthur, museums and heritage consultant

What are your own professional ethical values?

Competence – act with integrity and honesty (Nolan principles). 

Be a competent museum professional (apply standards, share knowledge, keep learning).

Guardianship – balancing long term care/protection with public access and engagement (apply standards, cf Accreditation – see below, duty of care etc), promoting public trust in museums. Clear and accountable decision-making.

Supported by stewardship – proactive and sensitive use of resources to achieve a long term sustainable future for museums.

What do the public need from the Code of Ethics?

I’d like the public to know that museum professionals (and governing bodies) have espoused a clear set of ethical principles that underpin everything they do.  

This is evidenced, for example, through applying standards of governance, use of resources, due diligence (in terms of collections development) etc.

If you could change one thing about the Code of Ethics what would it be?

I’d like to see ethics as a force for positive and proactive professional behaviour.

It’s a way of thinking that enables museum professionals to navigate their interactions with the public, with governing bodies, with colleagues and peers, with stakeholders, with government etc. 

They are not a set of rules (cf Pirates of the Caribbean, pt1 – the Pirates Code is “just guidelines”). 

They should be short, clear and backed up with guidance and case studies which can change as the profession/museums evolve.

Where I think Accreditation fits in (with my Accreditation Committee “hat” on): people working in museums need to espouse a set of underpinning ethical values – personal (cf Nolan principles) and interpersonal (relationships – with colleagues, stakeholders, the public) – maintaining professional conduct and competence. 

Institutions need to endorse this way of working as it defines the “contract” with users, stakeholders, funders etc.

Where Accreditation fits in is the sector as a whole using ethical values to define minimum standards of guardianship (governance, care, access) and stewardship (use of resources, planning, sustainability) – which taken together maintain public trust in museums. And, as evidence of institutions putting these values into operation and application, through participation in the Museum Accreditation Standard.
It would be good to use Accreditation examples for case studies and in those areas where we need to have a combined voice (collections development in particular, but not exclusively).