The ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums was approved in 2004. For a long time now, the Finnish National Committee of ICOM has been discussing museum ethics and the need to make more active use of them in the Finnish museum field. The Finnish Committee has also thought about possibly updating the code to better correspond to the requirements of museum work today.
To initiate discussion, the Finnish National Committee of ICOM and student association Corpus from the University of Jyväskylä organised the Museum Ethics 2.0 seminar in spring 2015 and used it as the basis for editing an online publication: Museoetiikka 2.0* To activate the discussion in the Finnish museum field, the Finnish Committee also published a series of blog posts in spring 2016 in which museum professionals separately consider each rule in the Code of Ethics for Museums, looking at its meanings and topicality.
To increase the significance of museum ethics and develop the Code of Ethics for Museums, the Finnish National Committee of ICOM also wants to participate in international discussion. Some of the articles in the Museoetiikka 2.0 publication are in English, and the articles in Finnish include summaries in English. With this English translation of blog posts originally published in Finnish, the Finnish Committee offers all museum professionals the opportunity to learn about the current discussion about museum ethics in Finland.
Finnish National Committee of ICOM
*Puheenvuoroja ja keskustelunavauksia. (Museum Ethics 2.0. Discussion and ideas.) Edited by Johanna Mylläri, Maiju Nurminen, Leena Paaskoski, Anni Pykäläinen, Jesse Saarinen & Minna Sarantola-Weiss 2016. Finnish Museums Association Publications 70.
How are your museum ethics?
When was the last time you opened the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums (ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, International Council of Museums 2013) for support in a challenging situation in your work? Did it help you? Did it expand your thinking about the mission of the museum, the methods used and the opportunities available? What are museum ethics in your work and your museum?
My ethics booklet had been buried under piles of books in my office until, by chance, I had to delve into the matter. And I realised that conscious thinking about museum ethics is healthy, useful and interesting – after all, museum ethics are meant to guide, strengthen and inspire museum work. At the museum where I work, we have (unknowingly) exercised museum ethics when thinking about, for example, who should finance museum operations, whose stories we are telling in an exhibition, or whether the interest of citizens with initiative in supplementing museum collections can be called passive collecting, as we have done in the Finnish museum field.
According to ethics consultant Janne Behm, D.Th., who spoke at the Museum Ethics 2.0 seminar organised by the Finnish National Committee of ICOM and student association Corpus from the University of Jyväskylä, the rules for professional ethics are the community’s obligations which ensure that the community is preserved and develops and acts correctly. Ethics can support the idea of a shared mission and increase mutual trust within the professional community. The seminar pondered whether the rules for professional ethics for museums used in Finland still provide sufficient support for today’s museum work or if we should start revamping and updating them. Indeed, ICOM encourages museum professionals in its member countries to keep developing the ethical rules.
Ethical discussions can never be completed. The Finnish National Committee of ICOM encourages everyone to take part in the fruitful, multi-level and lively exchange of thoughts. In these blog posts, we aim to initiate discussion about the ethics in museum work and their importance, following the perspectives of the eight rules in the current Code of Ethics for Museums. Another tool for initiating and spurring on discussion is the Museoetiikka 2.0 (Museum Ethics 2.0) publication, published by ICOM and Corpus in co-operation with the Finnish Museums Association and the University of Jyväskylä.
By encouraging discussion about museum ethics, we want to collect daily museum experiences and examples of the utilisation of museum ethics as well as opinions, impressions, ideas and suggestions on how the Code of Ethics for Museums could possibly be updated. Or are an ethical spirit and understanding more important than individual detailed rules? What if the Code of Ethics for Museums 2.0 was a lively forum for ethical discussions in which everyday experiences and examples would keep accumulating and our ethical thinking at our cultural heritage would develop further? How could we best exercise museum ethics?
But how about if we start with this: when and in what situation did you last open the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums and did it help you?
Member of the Board of the Finnish National Committee of ICOM, responsible for museum ethicsCollections Manager, Lusto – The Finnish Forest Museum