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Museum Ethics as an Advocacy Tool A Common Purpose

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a common purpose

‘Museums enable people to explorecollections for inspiration, learning andenjoyment. They are institutions thatcollect, safeguard and make accessibleartefacts and specimens, which they holdin trust for society.’(Definition of a Museum, Code of Ethics 2008)

A Common Purpose

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Society can expect museums to:• hold collections in trust on behalf of society• focus on public service• encourage people to explore collections for inspiration,learning and enjoyment• consult and involve communities, users and supporters• acquire items honestly and responsibly• safeguard the long-term public interest in the collections• recognise the interests of people who made, used,owned, collected or gave items in the collections• support the protection of natural and humanenvironments• research, share and interpret information related tocollections, reflecting diverse views• review performance to innovate and improve.

A Common Purpose

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2.0Museums belong to everybody. Theyexist to serve the public. They shouldenhance the quality of life ofeveryone, both today and in thefuture. They are funded because oftheir positive social, cultural,educational and economic impact.All those who work for or govern museumsshould ensure that they:2.1recognise the public purpose ofmuseums.

A Common Purpose

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3.0Museums have the generosity of spiritto be approachable at every point ofcontact, to reach out to audiencesand to increase access to theircollections. As educationalinstitutions, museums encourage aparticipative approach to learning.However specialised their subjects orremote their locations, they developnew audiences and deepenrelationships with existing users.Museums recognise that individualshave varied backgrounds and varyingphysical, intellectual and culturalneeds and expectations.All those who work for or govern museums should ensure that they:improve the quality of experience for all users.

A Common Purpose

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4.0Museums seek the views ofcommunities, users and supportersand value the contributions theymake. Museums actively involve themin developing policy, and balance thiswith the role of museums in leadingand promoting debate. Museumsengage with changing needs andvalues.All those who work for or govern museums should ensure that they:4.1

Consult and involve groups from communities they serve and their representatives to promote a sense of shared ownership in the work of the museum.4.4Work collaboratively with other organisations toaddress social disadvantage and exclusion.

A Common Purpose

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6.0Curatorially-motivated disposal takesplace as part of a museum’s long-termcollections policy, in order to increasepublic benefit derived from museumcollections.All those who work for or govern museums should ensure that they:6.1act as guardians of the long-term public interest in the collections.

A Common Purpose

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8.0Collections in museums representthe rich diversity of the world’snatural and human environments.Museums promote learning withoutjeopardising this diversity. Theycontribute to sustainable economicactivity and benefit local and widercommunities.All those who work for or govern museums should ensure that they:8.2be sensitive to the impact of the museum and its visitors on natural and human environments. Make best use of resources,use energy and materials responsibly and minimise waste.8.3contribute to the sustainable social and material vitality of the museum’s surrounding area by, for example, attracting users, sustaining economic activity, offering satisfying and rewarding employment and pursuing local purchasing policies.

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All those who work for or govern museums should ensure that they: 10.3directly involve users, staff, members of the governing body and other stakeholders in planning. 10.5maintain the financial viability of the museum. 10.9recruit, train and develop individuals so that the skills and knowledge of members of museum staff, the governing body and support groups are appropriate to the needs of the individual and the museum.10.12assist the governing body in making informed decisions and obtaining direct access to the advice it needs to fulfil its role.

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“The spirit of the code is as important asthe letter. The code is informed by a beliefthat ethical behaviour is as much aboutdeveloping good practice as avoidingmalpractice.”(Code of Ethics 2008)

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“The code is a navigational aid to help us to negotiate sometimes unchartered waters.”(Foreword, Code of Ethics 2008)

A Common Purpose