Inaugural Conference of the Institute of Museum Ethics
Seton Hall University, Jubilee Hall
November 15, 2008
in Affiliation with the Seton Hall University M.A. Program in Museum Professions
The IME’s inaugural conference, Defining Museum Ethics, brought together museum theorists, museum professionals, professionals and ethicists to discuss what we mean by the terms transparency, accountability, and social responsibility.
Pre-Conference Workshop (Friday)
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Keynote – On Ethics & Activism
Richard Sandell, Director and Head, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK; author of Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference (Routledge, 2006) and editor of Museums, Society, Inequality (Routledge, 2002).
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Session 1 – Identifying Problems/Negotiating Solutions
Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, Seattle Art Museum, “Why is this here?”: How gallery texts conceal or reveal the ethics of collecting and displaying art
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Malcolm Collum, Chief Conservator, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., Responsible Utilization: Balancing a Conservator’s Obligations with Society’s Expectations.
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Patricia Capone, Curator and Repatriation Coordinator, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Post-NAGPRA: Ethics for New Ideas/New Relationships/Future Leaders
James B. Gardner, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Ethical, Entrepreneurial, or Inappropriate? Business Practices in Museums
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Session 2 – Museums as Catalysts of Social Change
Beverly Robertson, Director, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Politics in the Museum: Rights and Responsibilities
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Claudia Ocello, Adjunct Faculty, M.A. Program in Museum Professions, Seton Hall University, Making a Difference: The Development and Progress of a Collaborative Program for Teen Parents and Their Children in Museums
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Jane Werner, Director, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Rebuilding the Neighborhood with Sustainability at the Core
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Lisa Yun Lee, Director, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Chicago, Museums as “Dangerous” Sites: Fostering Civic Engagement Through Radically Democratic Museum Practices
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Moderator: Gary Edson, Director, Museum Studies Program, Texas Tech University, and author of Museum Ethics (Routledge, 1997)
A Discussion on Defining Museum Ethics
Peter Welsh, Director, Central Division, Arizona Historical Society, Tempe, Arizona
Judith Stark, Professor and Ethicist, Department of Philosophy, Seton Hall University
Robert Macdonald, President Emeritus of the Museum of the City of New York and author of the most recent AAM code of ethics
Emlyn Koster, President and CEO, Liberty Science Center
Janet Marstine, Director, Institute of Museum Ethics, Seton Hall University
Richard Sandell, Director and Head, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK
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Richard Sandell is Director and Head of the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. His research examines issues of social agency and, more particularly, the potential for museums to shape the ways in which visitors engage with contemporary social issues and representations of different social groups. His current work explores the museum’s relationship to human rights. He is the author of Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference (2007), editor of Museums, Society, Inequality (2002) and (with Robert R. Janes) co-editor of Museum Management and Marketing (2007).
Museums and Moralities: Ethics & Activism
Museums are increasingly exploring their potential to engage visitors in debates around contemporary social concerns and, more particularly, to purposefully inform and (re)frame the conversations which visitors and society more broadly have about difference. This trend is opening up new possibilities for museums as socially relevant and responsible institutions but, at the same time, is generating a myriad of perplexing challenges and dilemmas for those working in and with museums.
In what contexts might museums appropriately eschew attempts to offer balanced interpretation (which examines and validates a variety of perspectives) in favour of advocating an unequivocal moral standpoint? How might attempts to communicate (and engender support for) particular ways of understanding (such as those based on notions of equal human rights) be reconciled with the desire to offer visitors engaging, non-didactic experiences that open up, rather than close down, possibilities for understanding and respect between communities. What happens when the rights of one group are potentially threatened by the museum’s support for the rights of another group?
This paper blends theoretical investigations with analyses of contemporary practices to consider these timely and complex questions.
After spending her teenage years in Liberia, West Africa, Pamela McClusky returned to the U.S. and began seeking out places that recognized African art. In 1980, she helped the Seattle Art Museum establish a department for the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including: Is Egyptian Art African?, Indigo Blues, Sorry Business, The Untold Story, Elegant Plain Art from the Shaker World and Beyond, Passion for Possession, Africa in America and Long Steps Never Broke a Back. Since 2008, she has curated new galleries for an expanded Seattle Art Museum and premiered a permanent gallery for Australian Aboriginal art.
“Why is this here?”: How gallery texts conceal or reveal the ethics of collecting and displaying art
Museums labels often take a neutral tone, steering viewers away from disputes about ethical issues. Conflicts regarding provenance, authenticity, appropriation and interpretation are rarely opened up for public consideration. When and how can visitors be encouraged to consider the fact that methods of collecting, curating and narrating art history are not free of conflict? This discussion will focus primarily on galleries devoted to work with advisors whose opinions are not imbedded in museum conventions. Whether it is wise to burst the bubble of institutional authority and reveal discordant opinions will be considered by citing experiences with experimental texts from recent museum installations.
Gary Edson is Executive Director of the Museum of Texas Tech University, Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Museum Science and Heritage Management, and Professor of Museum Science. Mr. Edson has been a member of the American Association of Museums Board (1992-1994), the AAM/ICOM Board (1994-2000), and a member of the AAM/ICOM Executive Committee (1997-2000). He is an active member of the International Council of Museums Ethics Committee (1997-2004) and has served on various other academic and museum related boards. He was elected to the Executive Council of ICOM in 2001 and re-elected in 2004.
Edson conducted ICOM/UNESCO sponsored museology workshops at the Nubian Museum in Aswan, Egypt in 1998 and 2001, and was instrumental in completing the AAM/ICOM ICBS Disaster Survey (1999/2000). For the past five years, Mr. Edson has been a guest lecturer at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is a consultant to the University of Costa Rica Committee on Museum Development, guest professor at Fu-Jen University in Taipei, Taiwan, taught a museum management workshop in Mongolia, and hosted numerous international museum professionals at Texas Tech University.
Mr. Edson is the author of Mexican Market Pottery (1979), co-author of The Handbook for Museums (1994), editor of the International Directory of Museum Training (1995), editor of Museum Ethics (1997), associate editor of The Law Of Cultural Property And Natural Heritage (1998) edited by Marilyn Phelan, and editor of the English edition of Introduction To Museology: The European Approach (1998) by Ivo Maroevic. He served on the AAM-AAM/ICOM task force that developed the “Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era.” Edson has published numerous articles and presented papers on museology and museum ethics, and has been an advocate of the international museum community since joining ICOM .
Malcolm Collum is the Chief Conservator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. From 1996 until April of 2008, he was a senior conservator at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, where he was responsible for the care of half of the institution’s three-dimensional artifacts, including motorized vehicles, aircraft and horology. After earning an M.A. in Art Conservation from the State University College in Buffalo, New York, Mr. Collum pursued his studies of mechanical artifacts at the National Museum of Science and Industry, London, England and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Responsible Utilization: Balancing a Conservator’s Obligations with Society’s Expectations.
The application of conservation principles to industrial collections is a constant struggle when the object’s value is oftentimes defined by its ability to perform an intended function. The conservator responsible for preserving this type of cultural material is often conflicted between their ethical obligations and society’s expectations. As cultural institutions strive to create a more dynamic and interactive experience for visitors, more artifacts are being contemplated for use in “experiential education” programs. The process for choosing appropriate artifacts, defining the level of use, access, documentation and control and an assessment of the conservator’s role, will be discussed through several case studies.
Patricia Capone (Ph.D., Harvard University, Department of Anthropolgy) is Associate Curator at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology; and Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, both at Harvard University. Also serving as Repatriation Coordinator, Capone is interested in museums and indigenous communities. A historic archaeologist with experience in the Southwest and Northeast United States, Capone explores cultural dynamics and issues of contemporary relevance of the past.
Post-NAGPRA: Ethics for New Ideas/New Relationships/Future Leaders
Justice by remedy and multivocality underpin the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). Museums’ implementation of NAGPRA and the dialogues it evokes prompts reflection on practice and relevance beyond the formal legal scripture. Museums emerge increasingly conscious of ethical cultural dialogues with deepened considerations of justice and multivocality. Partly initiated through NAGPRA practice and through developments in the fields of anthropology and history, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University explores critically collaborative dialogues locally. Employing the transformative power of campus archaeology as civic engagement, student investigations of seventeenth century Harvard College and Harvard Indian College draw out university and community dialogue on cultural and historical dynamics. Tandem field and museum courses in Archaeology of Harvard Yard explore the potential for service learning to provide dialogic settings, and to develop new approaches and frameworks of knowledge. Multiple viewpoints literally come together to consider one community with multiple dispositions (cultural, national, religious, social, and economic).
The Peabody Museum, Department of Anthropology, and Harvard University Native American Program collaborate to engage students by thinking globally while digging locally in this new consideration of the university’s reflection on its roots in Colonial Massachusetts and Harvard Indian College. As the current-day inheritors of world-wide material culture and media, museums and their ethics are considered as students steward the resulting archaeological collections. They navigate exhibit voice, indigenous community consultation, relevance of thematic choice, design and educational programming to strive for ethically and socially just processes. These cultural dialogues circulate back to museum and university relationships with local indigenous communities through NAGPRA. Providing settings in which to reflect on and practice approaches, and to shape future frameworks of knowledge increases museums’ relevance to ethically-based cultural dialogues and community building, which will be guided by these future leaders.
Marie C. Malaro is an attorney, an educator and an author. She is a Professor Emerita at the George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) and the former director of the University’s Graduate Program in Museum Studies. Prior to joining the academic world in 1986, Ms. Malaro was Associate General Counsel for the Smithsonian Institution for fifteen years. Also during her career she served for twenty years as a faculty member on the annual American Law Institute – American Bar Association course of study on Legal Problems of Museum Administration. Her books and numerous articles are widely used by the museum community and by university programs devoted to the training of museum professionals. In 2006, she was named to the AAM Centennial Honor Role, a list of one hundred individuals, drawn from the past one hundred years, who have made outstanding contributions to the museum profession.
Jane Werner’s 25 years of museum experience include 17 years at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh where she served as Program Director, Deputy Director and Executive Director. Werner is responsible for all aspects of the Museum’s mission and vision, exhibits, public programming, funding and operations.
Werner leads the process for long-range strategic planning and implementation at the museum. She has administered and led teams of museum professionals, community organizations and various working committees. The new Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh opened in November 2004 after the completion of a $29M capital campaign. The museum is the largest Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rated museum in the United States and is the recipient of the 2006 American Institute of Architects National Award, the National Trust for Historic Preservation Award and the 2007 Rudy Bruner Silver Award for Urban Excellence. She is currently a Program Investigator for a National Science Foundation Grant for the “How People Make Things” exhibit and program opening in June 2007.
Prior to her tenure at the Children’s Museum, Werner worked for the Franklin Institute Science Museum, The Carnegie Science Center, and The Buhl Science Center. She ran her own exhibit design firm whose clients included The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, The Franklin Institute, Beechwood Nature Reserve and The Scientific Discovery Museum.
Werner is President of the Board for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and is the treasurer for the New Hazlett Theatre. She currently sits on the boards of the Forbes Fund, and the Association of Children’s Museums. She has also served on the boards of Children, Youth and Families of Allegheny County and the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and was a juror for the 2006 American Institute for Architecture National Design Award. She regularly participates in and presents at national conferences. Werner received a BFA in Synaesthetic Education from Syracuse University. She attended the Museum Management Institute of the Getty Foundation (1999) and was a Fellow at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University.
Abstract: Rebuilding the Neighborhood with Sustainability at the Core
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh opened its award winning facility in November 2004. Throughout the planning and building of the new museum, environmental sustainability was paramount, resulting in a Silver LEED rating. After opening, the museum staff began to look at sustainability as not only as environmental but also in financial, social and institutional terms. This focus led the staff to looking beyond the museum’s walls into the community, resulting in the Charm Bracelet Project. This project uses the strength of the cultural institutions in the geographic area of the North Side of Pittsburgh as catalysts for community development and social change by looking at the programmatic, physical and marking links between the facilities.
Robert Macdonald has over four decades of experience in the museum field, including the directorial/CEO position at the Museum of the City of New York from 1985 to 2002. He has published widely in Museum News and other museum periodicals. He also has a lifetime of service to museum associations. He served as President of AAM (1985-1988), Chair of the AAM Ethics Task Force (1988-1991) and is now Vice Chair, International Committee of Museums of the City, International Council of Museums. Macdonald has sat on many boards and committees. He was chair of the Cultural Institutions Group of NYC (1989), and served on the New York African Burial Ground Committee (1991-1993) and Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Cultural Committee (1998). He now sits on board of the Joseph P. Riley Institute, College of Charleston, the International African American Museum in Charleston and the South Carolina Aquarium. In 2003 Macdonald was given the Award for Distinguished Service to Museums by the American Association of Museums.
Macdonald has worked as a consultant since 2004. He also teaches in the Masters in Public Administration Program at the College of Charleston.
Dr. Peter H. Welsh is the Director of the Central Division of the Arizona Historical Society based at its museum in Tempe, Arizona. From 1993 to 2008, Welsh served on the anthropology faculty at Arizona State University where he directed ASU’s Museum Anthropology Graduate Program and was the inaugural Director of the Deer Valley Rock Art Center. Welsh was Chief Curator and Deputy Director at the Heard Museum from 1986 to 1993 and Assistant Director at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles from 1981 to 1986. He has written and taught about a wide range of museum topics—from artifact terminology and exhibition development to museum theory and ethics. Welsh received his B.A. in Anthropology at Northern Arizona University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Stark came to Seton Hall in 1980 after receiving her degree from the New School for Social Research in 1979 where she studied with the prominent political philosopher Hannah Arendt and conducted research on St. Augustine. Dr. Stark is a member of the philosophy department and has contributed to many academic, curricular, and service activities. In addition to her work in the department, Dr. Stark began teaching in the University Honors Program in 1983, becoming its director for ten years in 1987. With other women colleagues Dr. Stark helped create the Elizabeth Ann Seton Center for Women’s Studies at Seton Hall (1996) where she regularly teaches feminist theory. She also helped develop the new environmental studies major in the college.
Over the years, Dr. Stark has received many awards and grants. She was appointed a New Jersey Governor’s Fellow in the Humanities, received a grant to improve the Honors Program, attended a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on environmental ethics in Alaska, was named among the ten outstanding academic advisors in the country, and was granted the Woman of the Year Award at Seton Hall in 1998.
Dr. Stark’s research focuses on St. Augustine, feminist theories, and human rights and environmental issues. Her books Hannah Arendt: Love and Saint Augustine (University of Chicago Press) and Feminist Interpretations of Augustine (Penn State Press) have made important scholarly contributions to the field. She has published articles and book chapters and is currently working on the ethics and public policy of global climate change and museum ethics.
Beverly C. Robertson is currently President of the National Civil Rights Museum and principal of TRUST Marketing and Communications Consortium. She has amassed over 25 years of experience in Public/Community Relations, Communications, Strategic Planning and Research. Working with TRUST since 1992, she has been responsible for landing such national accounts as the Promus Companies, Holiday Inn Worldwide, Midas International and Merrill Lynch, just to name a few.
Chosen as Executive Director of the National Civil Rights Museum in 1997, Ms. Robertson has had a profound effect on the national prominence and reputation of the Museum. She has established an archive system, formalized policies and procedures, executed the most successful Freedom Award event ever, and completed an $11 million dollar capital campaign and a major museum expansion project. In 2001, under her guidance and expertise the NCRM received recognition as one of the top ten national treasures by USA Today. Formerly Marketing Communications Director for Holiday Inn Worldwide, she gained a wealth of knowledge and expertise in business after her 19-year tenure with the firm.
Having started her career as a reservations agent, Ms. Robertson worked her way up through the ranks–amassing experiences in Marketing Research and Development, Product Development, Training and Development, Strategic Planning and Communications. She has been featured in several national publications including: Essence, The New York Times, Ebony, Black Enterprise, Dollars & Sense and Redbook.
Abstract: Politics in the Museum: Rights and Responsibilities
Historically our perception of a museum includes the establishment of these institutions as places for social/civic engagement. Until the latter decade of the 19th century however, these institutions served only a small percentage of its potential public, chiefly serving as repositories and display houses for the collections and history of the highly educated, wealthy and Euro-centric visitor.
Author and CEO of the Missouri Historical Society, Robert Archibald says of history museums, that the role of museums is to search for common ground between diverse interpretations and experiences, for mutual understanding and, a unified narrative for the past as well as a path for the future. He further states that “history is a broad-based discussion in which an institution shares authority with the citizens it serves – that it is a conversation about what is important, who we are and what stories we will tell.
Claudia Ocello is a museum consultant for education programs and exhibitions, working with clients inclding the Newark Museum and the Morris Museum. Most recently she was Associate Director of Education and Public Programs at Save Ellis Island. After completing her Masters in Museum Education at Bank Street College of Education and becoming certified to teach grades Pre-K – 6, Ms. Ocello interned at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, CA, and became Education Coordinator at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT. While in Connecticut she completely revamped the education programs to be more child-centered, theme-based and hands-on, with a regular schedule of family offerings.
In 1996, Ms. Ocello joined the New Jersey Historical Society as Curator of Education, During her 10-year tenure, she instituted new curriculum-based, interdisciplinary, hands-on education programs for school groups, families, and adult audiences. In 2002, she won the award for Excellence in Programming from the Education Committee of the American Association of Museums for the Historical Society’s multi-visit program, Partners in Learning: Teen Parents and Their Children at Museums. She co-authored the related publication: First Steps: A Scrapbook and Guide for Young Parents, Museums, and Community Partners. In 2005 she was promoted to Director for Programs and Exhibitions. Ms. Ocello then joined the staff of SEI where she developed, planned, and taught workshops for teachers, hands-on, developmentally appropriate programs for school groups, and assisted and advised on public issues related to exhibits and programs on Ellis Island’s south side. In 2008, she won the award for Excellence in Practice from the Education Committee of the American Association of Museums. She has published several curriculum packets related to museum collections and exhibitions as well as articles in Museum News. Ms. Ocello teaches Museum Education courses at Seton Hall University in the M.A. Program in Museum Professions.
Abstract: “Making a Difference: The Development and Progress of a Collaborative Program for Teen Parents and Their Children in Museums”
Museum educators define their role as being the “bridge” between the collections and the public. Sometimes, that means developing programs that bring new audiences to the museum. The true purpose of audience development is not always clearly articulated: is it a question of enhancing the museum’s viability by increasing the total number of visitors? Or, do museums- and specifically museum educators – have an ethical responsibility to reach out to “under-served audiences” by developing programs that meet their needs? And, if so, what are the rewards for the museum? In this session, Claudia Ocello discusses the impetus behind the creation and inception of the award-winning program, Partners in Learning: Teen Parents and Their Children at Museums at the New Jersey Historical Society; the short and long-term impact on the community; and the ethics of sustaining this program within the museum and the community.
Lisa Yun Lee
Lisa Yun Lee is the Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and a member of the Art History Faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also the Co-Founder and former Director of The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council. Lisa received her B.A. in Religion at Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. in German Studies from Duke University. She also teaches a class on art and politics and the relationship between theory and practice as a visiting professor at the School of the Art Institute Chicago. Her last book was Dialectics of the Body: Corporeality in the Philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno (Studies in Philosophy) (Routledge, 2005) and she is working on a new project about the radical potential and practice of oppositional body language and gesture. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College, the Ms. Magazine Advisory Board, the Boards of Young Chicago Authors, the Public Housing Museum, Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, International Contemporary Music Ensemble and the Chicago Children’s Theatre.
Abstract: Museums as “Dangerous” Sites: Fostering Civic Engagement Through Radically Democratic Museum Practices
Today, when there are over 12 million foreign-born people living in the United States without visas, and where the category of citizenship is highly contested and exclusive, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum has recently re-focused its mission to become a center of civic discourse and engagement, re-positioning the public museum as the new “Town-Hall” of the 21st century. We tell the story of Jane Addams so that it can have meaning to multiple generations to inspire social change through active engagement about issues around immigration today.
This paper challenges contemporary definitions of “the public” that would assert that being public entails representing either the voice of the majority or presenting “fair and balanced” positions. Instead, I champion the role that museums can play in fostering debate and dialogue. Drawing from the work of queer theorist Michael Warner and feminist theorist Iris Marion Young, I argue democratic pluralism is best served when public discourse is not reduced to the procedures of consensus building but rather around encouraging dissent.
I will describe our innovative museum practices that involve alternative display tactics and labeling, programming, museum education and docenting and argue that public museums such as the Hull-House can create “counterpublics-” safe spaces for subordinated groups- women, workers, people of color, gays and lesbians to contest normative discourses. I draw on the legacy of Jane Addams, who has become canonized as a matronly woman surrounded by children, but who at one point was considered “The Most Dangerous Person in the United States” because she opened the door to people who did not always have popular or mainstream views.
James B. Gardner is Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. He holds a B.A. with honors in history from Rhodes College and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from Vanderbilt University. Prior to his appointment at the NMAH he worked as a consultant with museums and higher education and previously served as Deputy Executive Director of the American Historical Association and as Director of Education and Special Programs for the American Association for State and Local History. His professional activities have included service as president of the National Council on Public History, president of the Society for History in the Federal Government, chair of the Nominating Board of the Organization of American Historians, chair of AASLH’s Nominating Committee and its Committee on Standards and Ethics, and on the Board of Editors of The Public Historian. He currently serves on the AASLH Council and the Smithsonian Collections Advisory Committee and as chair of the Smithsonian Ethics Advisory Board.
Dr. Gardner’s publications include The AAM Guide to Collections Planning (2004), Public History: Essays from the Field (second edition, 2004), Documenting the Digital Age (1997), Ordinary People and Everyday Life: Perspectives on the New Social History (1983), and contributions to The Public Historian, Museum News, and other periodicals. He was senior editor of Krieger Publishing Company’s Public History Series. As a lecturer and conference speaker, he has appeared on the programs of such diverse national organizations as the American Association of Museums, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities as well as at meetings, conferences, and seminars sponsored by local, state, and regional organizations.
Abstract: Ethical, Entrepreneurial, or Inappropriate? Business Practices in Museums
Over the past decade, museums have come under increasing criticism and scrutiny for perceived ethical lapses in business practices. As the public’s expectations and museums’ own ambitions have grown without comparable increases in resources, museums have become more and more creative in their business practices, from developing new and unorthodox revenue streams to courting demanding donors to creative accounting practices. Have museums crossed the line into unethical practices? Or are such actions justified if not necessary given the difficult challenges we face? Can a museum be entrepreneurial without jeopardizing the public trust? This paper will discuss recent controversies and the associated ethical problems and define the critical issues that museums must address in this new era of entrepreneurial activity and accountability.
Dedicated to improving the links between science and society, Emlyn Koster is a prominent writer and speaker about the external responsibilities of museums. Since 1996 he has been President and CEO of the Liberty Science Center and recently spearheaded its major expansion and total renewal. Its bold reopening trio of touring exhibitions features Islamic Science Rediscovered, Race: Are We So Different? and The Science of Fear.
Born in Egypt’s Suez Canal Zone and then moving to England, Dr. Koster obtained a B.Sc in Geology at the University of Sheffield. In 1971, he moved to Canada for his PhD in Geology from the University of Ottawa. From 1986-91, he was director of Alberta’s Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology upon which Queen Elizabeth II bestowed royal appellation in 1989. From 1991-96, as CEO at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, a pioneer among interactive museums, he led a major facility and exhibition renewal program. In 1994, he was honored by the Government of France with a Chevalier Medal in the l’Ordre des Palmes Academique. His elected presidencies of nonprofit organizations include the Geological Association of Canada, Giant Screen Theater Association and Institute for Learning Innovation. Other current appointments include the boards of the NY/NJ Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the US Board of the International Council of Museums, and the Science and Society Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Emlyn Koster has recently been honored by the Christopher Columbus Foundation for community service and by the American Conference on Diversity with a humanitarian award. During 2008, his invited keynote speaker roles include Washington, D.C. at the Building Museums Conference, at the New York State Museums Association Conference in Albany, and in Bangkok at the Asia-Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centers Conference.
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