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Exemplary ethical practices by museum professionals are essential for ICOM members.

ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums was adopted in 1986 and revised in 2004. It 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.

8. Museums operate in a professional manner

Principle: members of the museum profession should observe accepted standards and laws and uphold the dignity and honour of their profession. They should safeguard the public against illegal or unethical professional conduct. Every opportunity should be used to inform and educate the public about the aims, purposes, and aspirations of the profession to develop a better public understanding of the contributions of museums to society.


8.1 Familiarity with Relevant Legislation
Every member of the museum profession should be conversant with relevant international, national and local legislation and the conditions of their employment. They should avoid situations that could be construed as improper conduct.

8.2 Professional Responsibility
Members of the museum profession have an obligation to follow the policies and procedures of their employing institution. However, they may properly object to practices that are perceived to be damaging to a museum or the profession and matters of professional ethics.

8.3 Professional Conduct
Loyalty to colleagues and to the employing museum is an important professional responsibility and must be based on allegiance to fundamental ethical principles applicable to the profession as a whole. They should comply with the terms of the ICOM Code of Ethics and be aware of any other codes or policies relevant to museum work.

8.4 Academic and Scientific Responsibilities
Members of the museum profession should promote the investigation, preservation, and use of information inherent in the collections. They should, therefore, refrain from any activity or circumstance that might result in the loss of such academic and scientific data.

8.5 The Illicit Market
Members of the museum profession should not support the illicit traffic or market in natural and cultural property, directly or indirectly.

8.6 Confidentiality
Members of the museum profession must protect confidential information obtained during their work. In addition, information about items brought to the museum for identification is confidential and should not be published or passed to any other institution or person without specific authorisation from the owner.

8.7 Museum and Collection Security
Information about the security of the museum or of private collections and locations visited during official duties must be held in strict confidence by museum personnel.

8.8 Exception to the Obligation for Confidentiality
Confidentiality is subject to a legal obligation to assist the police or other proper authorities in investigating possible stolen, illicitly acquired, or illegally transferred property.

8.9 Personal Independence
While members of a profession are entitled to a measure of personal independence, they must realise that no private business or professional interest can be wholly separated from their employing institution.

8.10 Professional Relationships
Members of the museums profession form working relationships with numerous other persons within and outside the museum in which they are employed. They are expected to render their professional services to others efficiently and to a high standard.

8.11 Professional Consultation
It is a professional responsibility to consult other colleagues within or outside the museum when the expertise available is insufficient in the museum to ensure good decision-making.


8.12 Gifts, Favours, Loans, or Other Personal Benefits
Museum employees must not accept gifts, favours, loans, or other personal benefits that may be offered to them in connection with their duties for the museum. Occasionally professional courtesy may include the giving and receiving of gifts but this should always take place in the name of the institution concerned.

8.13 Outside Employment or Business Interests
Members of the museum profession, although entitled to a measure of personal independence, must realise that no private business or professional interest can be wholly separated from their employing institution. They should not undertake other paid employment or accept outside commissions that are in conflict with, or may be viewed as being in conflict with the interests of the museum.

8.14 Dealing in Natural or Cultural Heritage
Members of the museum profession should not participate directly or indirectly in dealing (buying or selling for profit), in the natural or cultural heritage.

8.15 Interaction with Dealers
Museum professionals should not accept any gift, hospitality, or any form of reward from a dealer, auctioneer, or other person as an inducement to purchase or dispose of museum items, or to take or refrain from taking official action. Furthermore, a museum professional should not recommend a particular dealer, auctioneer, or appraiser to a member of the public.

8.16 Private Collecting
Members of the museum profession should not compete with their institution either in the acquisition of objects or in any personal collecting activity. An agreement between the museum professional and the governing body concerning any private collecting must be formulated and scrupulously followed.

8.17 Use of the Name and Logo of ICOM
The name of the organisation, its acronym or its logo may not be used to promote or endorse any for-profit operation or product.

8.18 Other Conflicts of Interest
Should any other conflict of interest develop between an individual and the museum, the interests of the museum should prevail.

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