President's address

David Fleming sets out his vision for the Museums Association

David Fleming, the president of the Museums Association, sets out his aspirations for the MA, the changes to the code of ethics, and challenges facing the museum sector.


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MA Member
17.06.2015, 10:15
Very confused by the idea that saying "museums only exist for the public" indicates the profession has lost its way.

Museums exist for the collections, yes, but their purpose is about collections and people. Whether your visitors are researchers working on academic papers, families learning together, older people reminiscing about their past or visitors to the area finding out more, they are the public. Aren't we collecting our collections, caring for them, and making them accessible for people? Or are some of us saying we're doing it for ourselves? That sounds like a bizarre job-creation scheme.
11.06.2015, 20:20
A collection is not a purpose. That makes no sense. Another false dichotomy. Museums exist for the public - past, present and future. And yes their collections are essential.
MA voted for changes to their ethical code - some may not like them, but they were democratic. And as yet they have not precipitated a landslide of sales. Given the pressures of austerity, perhaps the surprise is how few we have seen. Maybe there is more bite than one might think.
Malcolm J Watkins
MA Member
Director, Heritage Matters
11.06.2015, 09:58
David's throw-away remark that museums only exist for the public is an indication of the way in which we as a profession have to an extent lost our way. Museums exist for the collections. The public are the main source of funding and the main beneficiaries, but if we strip every other element out we cannot overcome the fact that the collections are the purpose for a museum's existence.
As for ethics, the MA sold us down the river when it accepted the principle of permitted disposals some years ago. Now no collection can be said to be truly safe, especially in the context of authorities seeing them as the family silver that can be sold off. To what extent does the disapproval of the museums community and others impact on (say) a local authority that sells part of its holdings? If there is to be any bite in such disapproval it must extend across the entire regime, meaning that such things as non-statutory government funding are also withheld from irresponsible authorities.
David Fleming
MA Member
Director, National Museums Liverpool
09.06.2015, 16:54
All queries can still be addressed to the MA, from which advice can always be sought. The MA's Code of Ethics is the guide to ethical behaviour by museums.
09.06.2015, 13:30
So if the code of ethics is not prescriptive - where does a concerned member of the public go when they have an ethical query/problem which relates to that museum? In a climate with greater demands and fewer resources, is there really any body who has time to deal with the issues some of the new codes will raise?