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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.


by Geoffrey Lewis
Chair, ICOM Ethics Committee (1997 - 2004)
President of ICOM (1983-1989)

This edition of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums is the culmination of six years' revision. Following a thorough review of the ICOM's Code in the light of contemporary museum practice, a revised version, structured on the earlier edition, was issued in 2001. As envisaged at that time, this has now been completely reformatted to give it the look and feel of the museum profession and is based on key principles of professional practice, elaborated to provide general ethical guidance. The Code has been the subject of three periods of consultation with the membership. It was approved at the 21st General Assembly of ICOM, Seoul in 2004 with acclamation.

The whole ethos of the document continues to be that of service to society, the community, the public and its various constituencies, and the professionalism of museum practitioners. While there is a changed emphasis throughout the document resulting from the new structure, the accentuation of key points and the use of shorter paragraphs, very little is totally new. The new features will be found in paragraph 2.11 and the principles outlined in sections 3, 5 and 6.

The Code of Ethics for Museums provides a means of professional self-regulation in a key area of public provision where legislation at a national level is variable and far from consistent. It sets minimum standards of conduct and performance to which museum professional staff throughout the world may reasonably aspire as well as a providing a statement of reasonable public expectation from the museum profession.

ICOM issued its Ethics of Acquisition in 1970 and a full Code of Professional Ethics in 1986. The present edition - and its interim document of 2001 - owe much to that early work. The major work of revision and restructuring, however, fell on the members of the Ethics Committee. Their contribution in meetings - both actual and electronic - and their determination to meet both target and schedule is gratefully acknowledged. Their names are listed for reference.

Having completed our mandate, we pass responsibility for the Code to a largely new committee membership, headed by Bernice Murphy, who brings to the work all the knowledge and experience of a past Vice-President of ICOM and a previous member of the Ethics Committee.

Like its precursors, the present Code provides a global minimum standard on which national and specialist groups can build to meet their particular requirements. ICOM encourages the development of national and specialist codes of ethics to meet particular needs and will be pleased to receive copies of these. They should be sent to the Secretary-General of ICOM, Maison de l'UNESCO, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris Cedex 15, France.
E-mail: secretariat@icom.museum

ICOM Ethics Committee for the period 2001-2004

Chair: Geoffrey Lewis (UK)
Members: Gary Edson (USA); Per Kåks (Sweden); Byung-mo Kim (Rep. of Korea); Pascal Makambila (Congo) - from 2002; Jean-Yves Marin (France); Bernice Murphy (Australia) to 2002; Tereza Scheiner (Brazil); Shaje'a Tshiluila (Democratic Rep. of Congo); Michel Van-Praët (France).

Ethical issues that require the attention and/or consideration of the ICOM Ethics Committee may be addressed to its Chair by e-mail: ethics@icom.museum

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