Guest blogger Sally Yerkovich is director of the Institute of Museum Ethics, founded at Seton Hall University in 2007. The Institute promotes accountability, responsibility, and sustainability in museums by:convening conversations about critical ethical issues facing museums today, and creating a physical and virtual community of emerging and practicing museum professionals and museum studies faculty who can use our resources to make informed decisions about ethical matters. This post is the first in our series of posts from accepted Museums and Politics conference speakers. Sally will be speaking on “Is there a Future for Museum Ethics?” and, as you’ll see, there’s much to ponder. We’re particularly interested in hearing perspectives from around the world. Please share your comments!
Since its inception, the Institute has hosted three international conferences and a number of lectures. It has also generated courses on museum ethics and cultural heritage, initiated dialogues about contemporary ethical issues for museums through its website and listserv, and collaborated with the Center for the Future of Museums of the American Association of Museums on a nationwide forecasting exercise on future ethical issues.
The Institute maintains a LinkedIn group for discussions about museum ethics in the news as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts. We post news articles on www.museumethics.org regularly and also maintain a listserv. The Institute offers confidential consultations regarding ethical issues in museums.
The Institute of Museum Ethics maintains that ethical issues underpin all aspects of work in museums — from governance to education, registration to exhibitions, finances to operations and visitor services.
Whether in day-to-day decision-making or forging an overarching mission, museum ethics are about an institution’s relationship with people — individuals and groups in the communities a museum serves as well as its staff and board members.
We define museum ethics through principles of conduct related to individual and institutional behavior, such as integrity, accountability, loyalty, honesty, and responsibility. We provide the tools to identify operative ethical principles, and we keep abreast of issues in the field as well as larger societal changes in order to anticipate the emergence of circumstances that might have an impact upon ethical practice in museums. Continue reading