Ethics, Standards and Best Practices
As the national organization representing museums of all kinds, we bring together museum professionals in order to formulate voluntary ethical guidelines, standards and best practices that inform museum operations. The Characteristics of Excellence for U.S Museums and Code of Ethics for Museums provide the foundation for museum excellence. They address “big picture” issues about how museums should operate and put forth broad outcomes that can be achieved in many different ways based on an institution’s discipline, type, budget, governance structure and other unique circumstances.
These standards are directly informed by the field. They are filtered through the dialogue, debate and data generated by our excellence programs, professional networks, conferences and seminars, national studies and relationships with other museum service organizations. We recognize the great diversity of the museum field and the importance of the ethical codes, standards and best practices developed and issued by various discipline/interest-specific museum associations. Taken together, they work in concert to ensure museums hold themselves accountable to their peers and their publics.
Ethics and standards help foster common vocabulary, expectations and assumptions. They foster informed decision-making, which contributes to an accountable and credible museum field. Adherence to mutually agreed-upon standards also enables museums to self-regulate, to a large extent, in a flexible and appropriate way that accommodates the huge diversity of our field, rather than have regulations imposed by lawmakers.
We encourage all museums to commit to these standards, best practices and ethical guidelines in order to fulfill their roles as essential educational and community institutions. This commitment to excellence is necessary to secure the support, trust and recognition we need to advance our goals with lawmakers, funders, other community groups and the general public.
Read more about ethics and standards issued by the Alliance and other organizations.
This guide is an essential reference work for the museum community, presenting the ideals that should be upheld by every museum striving to maintain excellence in its operations. This publication is available as a free PDF to all museum members.
The following policies address certain eligibility issues and participation requirements specific to museums engaged in the Accreditation Program. Although they are Accreditation Commission-issued policies and not national standards, non-accredited museums may find them of interest.
Learn about programs that support, motivate and recognize your pursuit to uphold standards and best practices.
Reference guides, articles and tools to help your museum understand and apply standards and best practices.