A protest against BP's sponsorship of the British Museum

Is it important for the public to engage with museum ethics?

Rebecca Atkinson, 02.06.2015
Vote in the poll and have your say
The Museums Association’s (MA) ongoing review of the code of ethics includes considering how to raise awareness of museum ethics with members of the public.

In a video setting out his vision for the MA, David Fleming, the association’s president and the director of National Museums Liverpool, said that the public has the right to understand what ethical codes are about.

“It’s a tricky job... to make sure the public understands the code of ethics for museums because it’s not necessarily the first thing they think of doing,” he said. “But the code of ethics for museums particularly needs to rely on the public’s expectation that museums are going to be honest in what they do, what they say, where they take money from and who they listen to.”

Sharon Heal, the director of the MA, speaking at a conference held by the Yorkshire and Humberside Federation of Museums and Art Galleries last week, said: “If the code of ethics is too deep for the public then maybe we’ve got the wrong ethics."

Ahead of two consultations about the new code of ethics, in Leeds and Cardiff, Museums Journal is holding a poll to find out whether you think is it important for the public to engage with museum ethics.

Vote in the poll and have your say in the comment box below.


Is it important for the public to engage with museum ethics?


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Malcolm J Watkins
MA Member
Director, Heritage Matters
11.06.2015, 10:05
What does 'engage with museum ethics' mean? The people who need to understand and support them are the people in the profession. As already suggested, I have no idea of the details of the codes of ethics of professions with which I interact. I just expect them to regulate themselves in ways that will protect me.
If we want the public to engage with anything, surely it is with museums, not museums ethics.......
03.06.2015, 16:54
The code of ethics is far too long and very boring and frankly 'the public' has right to expect those who style themselves as professional to act in a professional manner without being pestered themselves. How does the public engage with codes of ethics for the police, or the financial services or the health professionals? I expect it's through a publicly managed oversight panel of some sort, if at all, and that's what this 'profession' should supply itself with if it wants.
02.06.2015, 20:30
important to understand that 'museum ethics' do not operate in a closed circuit in the museum itself and that the competing demands within museums impact on strict interpretation such codes (incl. differences involving sustainability in face of demands from conservation, stakeholder, funder,etc)