Professionals call for rethink on disposal ethics

Geraldine Kendall, 21.01.2015
Read vox pops on what sector wants to see in revised code
As part of its ongoing code of ethics review, the Museums Association (MA) has published a series of vox pops on ethics from museum professionals across the sector.

Participants were asked to outline their own professional values, and give their view on what the public needs from the code of ethics and what changes they would like to see when the code is updated.

A number said the revised code should take into account the financial difficulties facing museums today, particularly in relation to disposal.

Heledd Fychan, the corporate affairs and advocacy manager at Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museums Wales) said it was essential for the code to reflect “the financial realities of today, and the pressure many museums are under to either close or sell some of their collections in order to be able to survive”.

Similarly, Ellen McAdam, the director of Birmingham Museums Trust, said she would like to see the code changed 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”.

David Fleming, the head of National Museums Liverpool, said that the public needed the code to mandate a “greater commitment to honesty”.

“Many museums have perpetrated a dishonest approach to historical issues by avoiding contentious subjects in a quest for a spurious ‘neutrality’,” he said. “I have no idea what authority such museums have for claiming a neutral ground that does not exist in real life.”

Nat Edwards, assistant director, south, at the National Trust for Scotland, said the public should be represented “at the heart of a code that values collaborating with them; that sees them as partners, co-curators and decision-makers and ultimately as the beneficiaries of every decision that we make”.

The code should foster trust and cooperation between museums and the public, he added.

“People have to trust what we show and say; people have to trust that we are honest and open about our core values and we have to trust people to be a force for good – and design our operations and processes accordingly.”

The MA is running an online consultation on the code of ethics until 13 February and is keen to hear your views.

The consultation covers a wide range of topics, from digital inclusion to sustainable practice, international partnerships, human rights, repatriation, workforce diversity, and sponsorship.

The revised code of ethics is due to be published later this year.


Ethics vox pops

Online ethics consultation