The fifth rule of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums looks at co-operation opportunities between museums and other public actors. Or did I misunderstand the heading completely? The subheadings in this section only talk about identification services, meaning the identification of illegally or illicitly acquired objects, and authentication and valuation. Indeed, the special expertise of museums is necessary for these.
The Code warns that the stated mission of museums may be compromised if their special expertise, skills and material resources are used to extend the museum’s activities by sharing resources or providing services.
But could the allocation of resources also be rethought? Could the fifth rule also deal with the sort of co-operation with other providers of public services that aims at richer interaction and is linked with meanings: What do museums have to offer that promotes good interaction between people and makes them strongly feel that they are alive?
In practice, this could involve sharing and developing expertise with actors in the social and health sector: using museums in a new way for special groups and new visitors, making museums more like living rooms, expanding the communal aspects, getting customers more involved and hearing their voices. This is time-consuming and even expensive but rewarding (as we know).
I have been working in the museum field for a long time, also as a freelance specialist in the art and museum fields, and have had the opportunity to be involved in many great – but short-lived! – co-operation projects between museums, the social and health sector and associations. Why on earth have these projects not led to more extensive, long-term or permanent forms of co-operation?
In Finland, we have the Culture for All service, Health from Culture network as well as numerous other bilateral partnerships, projects and publications. There is plenty of proof that we can achieve more together and will learn a lot. Nevertheless, the structures have not changed much, the co-operation has not become permanent and there is still no proper coordination. Many projects are a feather in the cap, nice things to write reports about.
Without a bold new approach and persistence (as well as successful funding and co-operation concepts), there would be no successful concepts like National Museums Liverpool’s House of Memories project, which aims to improve the lives of people living with dementia. In the project, the national group of museums has produced a multi-faceted, research-oriented method that has reached thousands of people through training and has been widely spread and awarded at the national and international level – a method it is developing and productising successfully. Do read more about it!
Why do our museums lack the courage to expand beyond their “stated mission”? Not everyone needs to do everything, but selecting your partners and target groups courageously might sometimes result in something good and lasting.
Head of Public Programmes, Ateneum Art Museum