Code of Ethics for Museums

Developed by our ethics committee and voted for by our members, the code of ethics defines current consensus over the principles that should guide museum practice

Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society."

The MA has acted as the guardian of UK museum ethics since the first Codes of Practice and Conduct were introduced in 1977. These were updated in 1987, 1991, 2002 and 2007.

This updated version of the Code of Ethics outlines ethical principles for all museums in the UK and was agreed at the Museums Association's annual general meeting on Thursday 5 November 2015, following an 18-month consultation process during 2014-15.

The new code espouses three essential principles: public engagement and public benefit; stewardship of collections; and individual and institutional integrity.

The development of this code has been a collaborative process involving representatives from across the museum sector, funders, interest groups, members of the public and other stakeholders.

This document represents the general consensus of the sector on the ethical standards that are expected of all museums and those who work in and with them.

Links and downloads

Code of Ethics (pdf)

Additional guidance to the Code of Ethics 2015 (pdf)

Disposal Toolkit (pdf)

Code of Ethics [Welsh] (pdf)

Disposal Toolkit [Welsh] (pdf)

Additional guidance on curatorially-motivated disposal (pdf)

Additional guidance on financially-motivated disposal (pdf)

Additional guidance on financially-motivated disposal [Welsh] (pdf)

Other guidance from the Museums Association