Difference between Ethics and Collection Management Policies
July 6, 2016 at 10:12 pm #134793David CParticipant
Is there a difference between an Ethics Policy and a Collection Management Policy?
Reason I ask is, my assistant and I (as Curator) have been working on a Collection Management Policy to present to our Board. We learned recently another Board Member has been crafting an Ethics Policy that would include Collection details. I always though an Ethics Policy dealt strictly with governance.
July 7, 2016 at 9:28 am #134794Grant BriscoeParticipant
In my experience the Ethics Policy covers a broad sweep of everything, and includes all aspects in which ethics should be applied, including ensuring that employees/volunteers do not have conflict of interests (especially important if they want to collect something from the Museum.)
I have seen Ethics Policies and Collection Management Policies which have a lot of overlap.
Collection Management Policies cover much more detailed information than an Ethics Policy would when it comes to handling and care of the objects in the collections. Both may discuss Accessioning and Deaccessioning guidelines as that can be an ethically fuzzy area sometimes.
It may be ethically problematic (especially to a donor) if an item was deaccessioned from the museum, or a museum rejected a donation, only to find its way into the home of an employee.
I would keep working on the Collection Management Policy as I feel there is no harm in having reinforcement between policies, I would just work to ensure that the two policies agree.
July 7, 2016 at 9:23 pm #134795
Yes, there is absolutely a difference between an Ethics Policy and a Collections Management Policy. It may also be that writing an ethics policy is a little bit of reinventing the wheel, as multiple professional museum and history organizations have developed codes of ethics as well as stated best practices. An easy option would be to formally adopt one or more sets of these in various board policies and the bylaws.
For example, our Collections Policy includes specific existing Codes of Ethics our organization ascribes to pertaining to collections (American Association of State & Local History, American Alliance of Museums, and the Oral History Association). Our bylaws ascribe to existing Codes of Ethics (American Association of State & Local History). We have a distinct conflict of interest policy as a board governance document.
In truth, a board can pass any policy or resolution. What it sounds like is happening is that two policies are being drafted as recommendations for the board to discuss and vote on. Maybe it would be helpful to support your draft collections policy recommendation with examples of similar policies from other organizations? If this interests you, I’d be happy to share ours.
July 9, 2016 at 7:52 pm #134813David CParticipant
Thank you Lissa (and Grant),
We have a Collection Management Policy but it is from 1980. It has never been updated or even reviewed. We never have had an Ethics Policy.
When I was President, I started the ball rolling for us to have an Ethics Policy and to review and update our CMP. I’m aware there is some overlap. Other than a brief mention in an Ethics Policy of a CMP, I’m not quite sure how much of the CMP would be included in an Ethics Policy. When the other Board member mentioned he was working on an Ethics Policy, he mentioned it would include specific details about HOW accessioning and deaccessioning would be done. It kind of riled my feathers because I recently attended lengthy workshops on up-to-date methods of accessioning, marking and handling objects, and State and Fed regulations about deaccessioning. Much of this would be incorporated into a new CMP.
I have two or three CMP’s from around NYS, but if anyone wants to share theirs CMP’s with me (and/or Ethics Policies), I would be delighted.
By the way… our Bylaws required me to step down after 2 consecutive terms as President. I’m now the Curator.
July 10, 2016 at 12:29 pm #134814EvelynParticipant
I agree with Lissa that most museums can adopt the national or even international Code of ethics and not have to reinvent the wheel. that is what we did.
July 11, 2016 at 4:35 am #134823
July 12, 2016 at 1:42 pm #134826HelenParticipant
FYI Resource: Recent issue of Museums (July/August 2016) by AAM.org has a white paper on Direct Care of Collections – Ethics Guidelines and Recommendations. Also posted online http://www.aam-us.org/resources/ethics-standards-and-best-practices/direct-care.
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