Chap 4: ‘Reconceptualizing Museum Ethics for the Twenty-First Century: A View from the Field’ by Janet Marstine, Jocelyn Dodd, and Ceri Jones

In the next chapter on ethics, three scholars from the Museum Studies Department at the University of Leicester, Janet Marstine, Jocelyn Dodd and Ceri Jones, deal with this important aspect of the regulatory environment in which museums are situated, and which professionals face every day. Whereas conventionally this has been approached by codes and manuals, they argue strongly for a new model of a “dynamic ethics-based museum practice” which suffuses the institution as a whole and that reconceptualises ethics as a “dynamic social practice that encourages dialogue and critical thinking to develop socially purposeful museums.” This chapter reports ‘From the Field’ on the findings of a research network set up by the authors at the University of Leicester with museum and university partners in which over twenty leaders in the field discussed key themes: social engagement; transparency; shared guardianship of collections; moving beyond canonicity; and sustainability. The chapter pushes our understanding of applied ethics in practice beyond inward looking, legalistic concerns with do’s and don’ts, to consider the wider social purpose of museums, giving professionals “the tools and confidence to respond proactively to the challenges and opportunities they face.”

The authors:

Janet Marstine is Academic Director and Programme Director of Art Museum and Gallery Studies in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester:

Dr Ceri Jones is a Research Assistant and Research Associate at the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester:

Jocelyn Dodd is Director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG), School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester:


About mccartco

Conal McCarthy has published widely on the historical and contemporary Māori engagement with museums, including the books Exhibiting Māori: A history of colonial cultures of display (2007) and Museums and Māori: Heritage professionals, indigenous collections, current practice (2011). His new book is Museum practice (2015) in the series International Handbooks of Museum Studies. This edited collection includes chapters on many aspects of current professional work from audience, leadership and policy to collections, exhibitions and conservation. His next book co-authored with Bronwyn Labrum of Massey University will explore history of/in museums.
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