Ed Vaizey, culture minister, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Ethics vox pops
What are your own professional ethical values?

As a minister with responsibilities across the cultural realm from museums to heritage, I am hugely conscious both of the impact of governmental decision-making on the care of collections for future generations, and of the importance of a code of conduct in public life.

As an elected MP, I represent the public interest according to the Nolan Committee standards. The Seven Principles of Public Life, which were included in the last code of ethics, are a key guide, and still feel relevant and useful for people working in any public institution.

What does the public need from the code of ethics?

The public needs assurance from the code that those managing collections of all kinds on behalf of the nation implement a range of best practice across the sector, reflecting current views on issues like acquisition and disposal to interpretation of the collections to different audiences, cultural property restitution and diversity of the workforce.

These ethics need to be clear, relevant and accessible, so that the public can understand the principles behind the management of our collections, and the way in which our valuable cultural institutions operate.

I'd also want to see recognition of the need for museums to engage ethically with visitors and when carrying out community outreach projects.

I think that the ethics surrounding increasingly digitised collections will also need to be addressed in more detail, to assure the public that this is being carefully considered and implemented, and I was pleased to see that this is being considered by the consultation.

It should also have clear guidance on museums funding and partnerships, as an increasing number of institutions look at developing more diverse funding models.

In a broader sense a commitment to the public to maintain our museums as world leaders, in terms of collections, curation, and display would be useful, and encouraging to national and international collaboration.

If you could change one thing about the current code of ethics what would it be?

I agree with others' comments that the current code needs to be more user-friendly, to be useful across the sector as a working document for museum professionals, with more links to advice about how to manage ethical decision making.

I agree case studies about how each aspect works in practice would be very useful.

A museums version of Joan Bakewell's Inside the Ethics Committee on Radio 4, on how decisions are taken for cultural objects, and why certain decisions, such as Northampton Museum's selling of the Sekhemka statue, didn't fit within those ethics might also be useful.

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