Course description

Now more than ever, ethical considerations touch all areas of the museum profession. But what are ethical standards and best practices for the museum field and why do they matter? Or do they matter? How are ethics and the law different and when do they overlap? Where do organizational management and museum policy fit in? And what do you do when faced with an ethical challenge at your museum? This course provides both a theoretical framework and practical tools for applying professional codes of ethics towards a better understanding of the critical role of museums in society today. Modules examine museum ethics in the context of governance, fundraising, collecting and curating, deaccessioning, cultural heritage, decolonization, diversity and inclusion, and social justice. Through a case study approach, students analyze and evaluate the outcomes of real-world ethical challenges and broaden their understanding of the expanding role of museums as catalysts for ethical change. For complete and current details about this Harvard Extension course, see the description in the DCE Course Search.


Director of Collections, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

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