Museum Ethics

ICOM Code of Ethics establishes the values and principles shared by ICOM and the international museum community. It is a reference tool translated into 38 languages and it sets minimum standards of professional practice and performance for museums and their staff.

By joining ICOM, each member agrees to respect this code. The Code of Ethics was adopted in 1986 and revised in 2004.

Download the Code of Ethics in English from ICOMs website.

Towards new relations between the museum and society

The ICOM Code of Ethics was written to provide a set of basic rules for museums and museum staff. Those rules are now recognized and accepted by museums across the world and are considered an indispensable reference in the museum sector. Many countries refer to the ICOM Code of Ethics in their national museum policy guidelines. But museums are different and work with very dissimilar themes. A set of general rules that has been devised

to be applicable for museums across the world can therefore not provide in-depth guidance on all the issues that museums deal with. This suggests a need for further exploration of museum ethics.

The evolving societal role of museums raises new ethical problems. Within ICOM Norway we have seen that this creates new challenges with respect to the contemporary documentation of controversial themes, especially when presenting the stories of individuals. In order to address these challenges, we have invited a group of authors to delve deeper into this theme. We have also asked employees of Norwegian museums about how they work with ethically fraught issues and what they have learnt from their experiences. The result is this publication.

The editorial committee included to board members in ICOM Norway, Kathrin Pabst and Eva D. Johansen, and the Executive Council’s representative on ICOM’s Ethics Committee, Merete Ipsen.

In detail, you will find these articles:

  1. Towards new relations between the museum and society by Kathrin Pabst, Eva D. Johansen and Merete Ipsen
  2. Valuable , challenging and becoming established. Results from a survey by Kathrin Pabst
  3. “I don’t usually talk loudly about these things” by Marianne A. Olsen
  4. Islam in Bible group country by Roy Hoibo
  5. “Grey Zones” and “Hearts Turned Inside Out?” Contemporary eyewitnesses and archival material as sources for historical research in the museum by Heidi Stenvold and Nina Planting Mølmann
  6. “Latjo drom ” – the good journey? The Glomdal Museum’s engagement with the culture and history of the Travellers by Mari Osthaug Moystad
  7. From the ICOM Code of Ethics towards a new museum ethics? by Kathrin Pabst

ICOM Norway invites museum employees to use this publication in their work – and to continue the discussion about ethical challenges. We at ICOM Norway have selected one theme. Society is in constant change and this raises new issues for museums. It provides a foundation for new discussions – and perhaps also a need to revise and amplify the Code of Ethics.

Please download the publication here: NewRelations-English

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Norges nasjonalkomité av the International Council of Museums