Ellen McAdam, director, Birmingham Museums Trust

Ethics vox pops
What are your own professional ethical values?

They are based on the traditional concept of public service. There is, or was, a democratic consensus that certain services should be provided by government to citizens regardless of their economic status.

Access to publicly-owned museum collections and buildings has traditionally been such a service. I believe that the provision of this is a social good and an honourable calling.

Unfortunately the model of public provision by local authorities is now badly bent, and heritage conservation faces similar austerity. All the bodies involved need to get together to map out a new strategy.

What do the public need from the code of ethics?

The present code of ethics is very clear and comprehensive. However, its existence is not widely known outside the profession. Although there is a broad general understanding of how museums preserve heritage, it is not reasonable to expect the public to enter into the legal minutiae of collections ownership.

It would be helpful to have a short summary statement of why museums are important and how the code of ethics safeguards them for routine inclusion in public-facing material.

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

I would change clause 6.15 to enable money raised as a result of disposal through sale to be used to create an endowment to replace the reduction of core public funding.

I would reconsider the wording that restricts such funds to the direct benefit of the museum’s collection, in favour of a more holistic view of the provision of a museum service.