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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.

3. Museums hold primary evidence for establishing and furthering knowledge

Principle: museums have particular responsibilities to all for the care, accessibility and interpretation of primary evidence collected and held in their collections.


PRIMARY EVIDENCE

3.1 Collections as Primary Evidence.
The museum collections policy should indicate clearly the significance of collections as primary evidence. The policy should not be governed only by current intellectual trends or present museum usage.

3.2 Availability of Collections
Museums have a particular responsibility for making collections and all relevant information available as freely as possible, having regard to restraints arising for reasons of confidentiality and security.


MUSEUM COLLECTING & RESEARCH

3.3 Field Collecting
Museums undertaking field collecting should develop policies consistent with academic standards and applicable national and international laws and treaty obligations. Fieldwork should only be undertaken with respect and consideration for the views of local communities, their environmental resources and cultural practices as well as efforts to enhance the cultural and natural heritage.

3.4 Exceptional Collecting of Primary Evidence
In exceptional cases an item without provenance may have such an inherently outstanding contribution to knowledge that it would be in the public interest to preserve it. The acceptance of such an item into a museum collection should be the subject of a decision by specialists in the discipline concerned and without national or international prejudice. (See also 2.11).

3.5 Research
Research by museum personnel should relate to the museum’s mission and objectives and conform to established legal, ethical and academic practices.

3.6 Destructive Analysis
When destructive analytical techniques are undertaken, a complete record of the material analysed, the outcome of the analysis and the resulting research, including publications, should become a part of the permanent record of the object.

3.7 Human Remains and Material of Sacred Significance
Research on human remains and materials of sacred significance must be accomplished in a manner consistent with professional standards and take into account the interests and beliefs of the community, ethnic or religious groups from whom the objects originated, where these are known.
(See also 2.5; 4.3).

3.8 Retention of Rights to Research Materials

When museum personnel prepare material for presentation or to document field investigation, there must be clear agreement with the sponsoring museum regarding all rights to such work.

3.9 Shared Expertise
Members of the museum profession have an obligation to share their knowledge and experience with colleagues, scholars and students in relevant fields. They should respect and acknowledge those from whom they have learned and should pass on such advancements in techniques and experience that may be of benefit to others.

3.10 Co-operation Between Museums & Other Institutions
Museum personnel should acknowledge and endorse the need for co-operation and consultation between institutions with similar interests and collecting practices. This is particularly so with institutes of higher education and certain public utilities where research may generate important collections for which there is no long-term security.