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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 36 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.

6. Museums work in close collaboration with the communities from which their collections originate as well as those they serve

Principle: museum collections reflect the cultural and natural heritage of the communities from which they have been derived. As such they have a character beyond that of ordinary property which may include strong affinities with national, regional, local, ethnic, religious or political identity. It is important therefore that museum policy is responsive to this possibility.


ORIGIN OF COLLECTIONS

6.1 Co-operation
Museums should promote the sharing of knowledge, documentation and collections with museums and cultural organisations in the countries and communities of origin. The possibility of developing partnerships with museums in countries or areas that have lost a significant part of their heritage should be explored.

6.2 Return of Cultural Property
Museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues for the return of cultural property to a country or people of origin. This should be undertaken in an impartial manner, based on scientific, professional and humanitarian principles as well as applicable local, national and international legislation, in preference to action at a governmental or political level.

6.3 Restitution of Cultural Property
When a country or people of origin seeks the restitution of an object or specimen that can be demonstrated to have been exported or otherwise transferred in violation of the principles of international and national conventions, and shown to be part of that country’s or people’s cultural or natural heritage, the museum concerned should, if legally free to do so, take prompt and responsible steps to co-operate in its return.

6.4 Cultural Objects From an Occupied Country
Museums should abstain from purchasing or acquiring cultural objects from an occupied territory and respect fully all laws and conventions that regulate the import, export and transfer of cultural or natural materials.


RESPECT FOR COMMUNITIES SERVED

6.5 Contemporary Communities
Where museum activities involve a contemporary community or its heritage, acquisitions should only be made based on informed and mutual consent without exploitation of the owner or informants. Respect for the wishes of the community involved should be paramount.

6.6 Funding of Community Facilities
When seeking funds for activities involving contemporary communities, their interests should not be compromised. (See 1.10).

6.7 Use of Collections from Contemporary Communities
Museum usage of collections from contemporary communities requires respect for human dignity and the traditions and cultures that use such material. Such collections should be used to promote human well-being, social development, tolerance, and respect by advocating multisocial, multicultural and multilingual expression.
(See 4.3).

6.8 Supporting Organisations in the Community
Museums should create a favourable environment for community support (e.g., Friends of Museums and other supporting organisations), recognise their contribution and promote a harmonious relationship between the community and museum personnel.