Museums hit by cuts must maintain ethical standards, warns MA

Nicola Sullivan, 01.04.2015
MA says governing bodies have a duty to ensure collections are protected
The Museums Association (MA) has called on governing bodies to ensure that museums uphold the highest ethical standards in the face of funding cuts.

“Funding cuts have hit the museum sector hard, with many organisations reducing staff numbers and opening hours. However, all museum governing bodies have a duty to ensure that they continue to act ethically and to safeguard collections for the public today and for the future”, said the MA's policy officer Alistair Brown.

The call comes shortly after the government placed a temporary export ban on an Egyptian statue that was controversially sold to an overseas buyer by Northampton Borough Council. The council was barred from MA membership for five years, lost out on a £240,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and was stripped of Accreditation by Arts Council England as a result of the sale.

Unethical disposal will be one of several issues addressed in free workshops hosted by MA this month. The events, taking place in Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds and Cardiff, will give museum professionals and stakeholders the opportunity to hear about the ongoing review of the MA's Code of Ethics and to discuss key ethical issues that require further examination. This follows an online consultation, which closed last month with more than 100 responses from individuals, museums and organisations across the sector.

Last week a UK-wide group of museum sector bodies released a joint statement saying they will not work with museums whose governing bodies sell items from their collections in contravention of the MA's Code of Ethics and the Accreditation Standard.

Last year MA released a revised disposal toolkit, which includes guidance on how museums should dispose of items in their collections in instances where the motive is financial.


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08.04.2015, 23:00
What a load of patronising nonsense about council run museums. I have worked at both nationals and local authority museums and have seen the same professionalism and ethical standards by colleagues. Local authority staff are clearly working under huge pressures at the moment and comments like this are not helpful. The museum association needs to be focused on developing resilience and pushing existing political agendas rather than constantly grinding on about ethics.
05.04.2015, 21:59
There is certainly a problem with a lack of awareness of ethical standards within small museums, especially council run facilities. Staff are pigeon-holed wherever they will fit and many do not have the expertise necessary to make collections management judgements. I worked in a council run museum and many of the management staff were from unrelated areas of the council and stuck there due to job cuts. Then, of course, they don't know who to hire, and the vicious cycle continues.