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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.



Appraisal: the authentication and valuation of an object or specimen. In certain countries the term is used for an independent assessment of a proposed gift for tax benefit purposes.

Conflict of interest: the existence of a personal or private interest that gives rise to a clash of principle in a work situation, thus restricting, or having the appearance of restricting, the objectivity of decision making.

Conservator-Restorer: museum or independent personnel competent to undertake the technical examination, preservation, conservation and restoration of cultural property. (For further information, see ICOM News, vol. 39, n°1 (1986), pp. 5 6.)

Cultural Heritage: any thing or concept considered of aesthetic, historical, scientific or spiritual significance.

Dealing:  buying and selling items for personal or institutional gain.

Due diligence: the requirement that every endeavour is made to establish the facts of a case before deciding a course of action, particularly in identifying the source and history of an item offered for acquisition or use before acquiring it.

Governing Body: the persons or organisations defined in the enabling legislation of the museum as responsible for its continuance, strategic development and funding.

Income-generating activities: activities intended to bring financial gain or profit for the benefit of the institution.

Legal title: legal right to ownership of property in the country concerned. In certain countries this may be a conferred right and insufficient to meet the requirements of a due diligence search.

Minimum Standard: a standard to which it is reasonable to expect all museums and museum personnel to aspire. Certain countries have their own statements of minimum standards.

Museum *: a museum is a non-profit making permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, the tangible and intangible evidence of people and their environment.

Museum professional *: museum professionals consist the personnel (whether paid or unpaid) of museums or institutions as defined in Article 2, paras. 1 and 2, of the Statutes, who have received specialised training, or possess an equivalent practical experience in any field relevant to the management and operations of a museum, and independent persons respecting the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums and working for museums or institutions as defined in the Statute quoted above, but not persons promoting or dealing with commercial products and equipment required for museums and museum services.

Natural Heritage: any natural thing, phenomenon or concept, considered to be of scientific significance or to be a spiritual manifestation.

Non-profit organisation: a legally established body- corporate or unincorporated- whose income (including any surplus or profit) is used solely for the benefit of that body and its operation. The term "not-for-profit" has the same meaning.

Provenance: the full history and ownership of an item from the time of its discovery or creation to the present day, from which authenticity and ownership is determined.

Valid title: indisputable right to ownership of property, supported by full provenance of the item from discovery or production.

* It should be noted that the terms "museum" and "museum professional" are interim definitions for use in interpreting the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. The definitions of "museum" and "professional museum workers" used in the ICOM Statutes remain in force until the revision of that document has been completed.
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