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Museum Code of Ethics


Normandy1944

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Normandy1944

Back in January I signed the Museum Code of Ethics for my internship at the new National Military Museum (open in december this year) in the Netherlands.

During my introduction I told I'm a collector of US WWII uniforms, especially from D-Day.

I also told I give presentations at schools to tell and learn the children what happened at D-Day.

However, the first response from the collection manager was that I should quit my activities immediately.

According to this code from ICOM (International Council Of Museum) I may not collect and should sell my whole collection (that's what they told me).

 

My internship has finished, but I'm still working at the museum.

It's busy and I really like it to work in a museum that's dedicated to military history (although it's not all Second World War), so they've offered me a contract.

But due to the signing of this code I still can't collect anything.

 

This is the situation in most (military) museums in the Netherlands.

I was wondering did someone else came across this too?

And what's the solution?

 

I'm studying Cultural Heritage, which means I'm going to work in the field of heritage after I'm finished.

Collecting is my hobby, but for me it's also a way to tell other people what happened 70 years ago.

So I want to keep on with collecting, but it's forbidden for me.

 

 

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Backtheattack

Looks like they didn`t want anybody outside museums with a collection. Here in Germany we have a lot of museums in private ownership with very good items, and on the other side the museums in state ownership. They store a lot of items in deep cellars, no people will ever see them. Most of them are anti-military museums like the german army museum at Dresden today, 90% of the vehicles there are now no longer on display. We have here the situation the museums in state ownership want`s the leadership, private museums are under current attack. Single people who collect items could join collecting organisations. Some of them work in public with displays, for instance some little museums show off this year exhibitions dealing with World War I, items came from private ownership. For your problem I think it`s not legal to forbidd someone collecting items.

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Last time I checked we did not live in the USSR.

So I wonder who are they to tell you what to do or not on your private time???????

I mean seriously?????

 

Erwin

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Normandy1944

I've asked the collection manager why I can't collect.

He told me if I collect I'm a rival of the museum.

In the past there were some conservators who took items from the immense collection.

So I understand the situation, but I don't collect items from the Dutch army, I collect US WWII (D-Day) objects.

 

 

Looks like they didn`t want anybody outside museums with a collection. Here in Germany we have a lot of museums in private ownership with very good items, and on the other side the museums in state ownership. They store a lot of items in deep cellars, no people will ever see them. Most of them are anti-military museums like the german army museum at Dresden today, 90% of the vehicles there are now no longer on display. We have here the situation the museums in state ownership want`s the leadership, private museums are under current attack. Single people who collect items could join collecting organisations. Some of them work in public with displays, for instance some little museums show off this year exhibitions dealing with World War I, items came from private ownership. For your problem I think it`s not legal to forbidd someone collecting items.

 

The National Military Museum is an organisation that isn't under state ownership, but the state is the Supervisory Board.

It's a military museum, so the ministery of Defence is deeply involved.

I'm most of the time working in the depot, and the largest art of the collection is indeed in depot.

Even some very rare objects are kept in depot instead of showing it to the public.

I understand this, because displaying of objects is about making choices.

Can an object reside in the showcase without decaying?

That's the biggest question every museum should answer.

You want to keep your items to remain as long as possible.

 

 

 

 

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We have the same thing here in Canada, I couldn't even volunteer to the museums here because I collect Militaria.

 

It is down to whoever is the President/Owner of the Museum to decide and they can do whatever they want, or make up any excuse they want to willingly force you to stop collecting.

 

So yes, we do live in a restricted society, if you want to work at the Museum, lose the collection. Or talk to the highest possible individual about your situation.

 

On another note, I won't stop collecting so I didn't take the museums offer :D

 

If they want people that aren't interested in Militaria to Volunteer/work for the museum that is up to the museums to decide :) I'm sure they'll get a lot of members and visitors when the guide doesn't know the difference between WW1 and WW2 :D

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manayunkman

I am not taking sides but I'm sure they view this as a conflict of interests.

 

Your heart is where your treasure is.

 

They want to make sure they are your heart, at least in this situation.

 

Is this the old Leyden Wappen Museum ?

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Normandy1944

They know where my heart is.

 

I really had a very good time during my internship.

I worked hard and according to the team I worked with I showed my value for the museum.

That's also why they offered me a contract.

They even gave me the responsibility for one of the display rooms.

However, my contract ends in October, so I think the best option is to wait untill then.

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US Victory Museum

The museum is trying to prevent conflicts of interest; however, the solution is actually quite simple. The museum has extended an

employment contract to you that you are free to either accept or decline. Nobody is holding a gun to your head, nor forcing you to

do anything. Either accept the terms of employment, or politely decline and seek employment elsewhere.

 

As a mark of personal character, if you should accept their conditions of employment, then it is up to you to uphold your word.

 

Msn

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manayunkman

Bottom line Msn hit the nail on the head.

 

You need to decide between 2 treasures.

 

Employment is very difficult to find especially doing something you love.

 

You can always study Normandy.

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I work at a Military Museum, and am also a collector. We have a "suggestion" that museum staff should curtail their collecting, and have even had a suggestion put out that we catalog our own collections and make it available to the director. I can see the conflict of interest that comes with being a museum staff member and with being a collector, and think each museum has to best judge what's in the museums best interest.

On one hand, collectors can be invaluable to a museum because they can be very passionate and knowledgeable about the artifacts and their history, but conversely there could be that urge to "lift" something that you "just HAVE to add to your collection." As for myself and the other collector on staff, we regularly donate items to the museum that are related to it's primary reason for being, namely artifacts related to the history of our state.

Mostly it comes down to a question of character...are you an honorable person who has the best interests of the museum at heart, or do you consider the museum to be a picking ground to further enhance your collection or pocketbook?

And, non-collectors can be aware of the value of museum artifacts too, and might be tempted to take something of value.

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Cut through the chase ...... so a collector is considered automatically a potential thief then by the museums???? Or a rival????

Really?

What about an asset to them as a lot of collectors have some valuable knowledge on collections and ways to preserve and display items.

The attitude of that museum borders to hypocrisy.

Sorry but that is how it sounds to me.

 

Erwin

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Cut through the chase ...... so a collector is considered automatically a potential thief then by the museums???? Or a rival????

Really?

What about an asset to them as a lot of collectors have some valuable knowledge on collections and ways to preserve and display items.

The attitude of that museum borders to hypocrisy.

Sorry but that is how it sounds to me.

 

Erwin

Sad to say, but yes some museums look at collectors as potential competitors for historical artifacts. We happen to have a director that has no problem with a couple of our staff being collectors. And you're correct in saying that collectors bring valuable knowledge of artifacts/history. That said, the museum has a statement written into its official policy that collectors need to curtail their collecting while working at the museum. (but as I stated...our director sees the need for knowledge and passion for history to be more important than having security cameras in all the back rooms watching our every move!) In any museum setting, it really comes down to having a staff from top to bottom that share a common goal for the museum, and have trust in each others character and abilities.

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17thairborne

I applied for a job with a museum, and an issue came up regarding my collection. The way it was explained to me is they were concerned about employees "making deals" with veterans or families wanting to donate their items to the museum. They felt that it was a conflict of interest having someone with such a passion for collecting who was always looking for adding to the collection. We should assume that an assistant curator would not be into thievery, but the temptation to grown one's own collection through the informal contacts that occur outside of the museum was a concern. I took no offense, and chose to continue collecting instead of seeking employment there.

 

Trust is a dying commodity. Not much happens with a simple handshake anymore, and I guess to a degree I cannot fully blame the museum staff with the many societal problems employers are facing.

 

Despite all the negative feelings about trust, this hobby is an anomaly as you see the vast number of strangers who send money and militaria to one another without even meeting beforehand, almost 100% of the time without problem.

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I am a museum studies graduate student at the University of Oklahoma. We have two museums: one is an art museum, the other is the State's natural history museum. In some of my coursework, I specifically read a statement that said museum professionals should not engage in collecting. The reason was not due to the theft of artifacts, but the the issue of competition. For the individual involved in collecting may make acquisitions for themselves, thus denying the museum the privilege of the item.

 

In the realm of art collecting, and military collecting, I can see where this would be a cause for concern. I recently went to an exhibit at a local science museum on Cabinets of Curiosities. It was interesting that some of the oddities they put on display in their "cabinets" were loans from science professors across the state.

 

The short story is, for those involved in academia, it's nearly impossible not to acquire items related to your discipline throughout your career.

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I cannot describe how mad this makes me. My museum, where I only volunteer, has no such policy.But it is a small museum, and almost totally relies on donations. In fact I just put together an Allied D-Day uniform display where probably 90% of the items were loaned by volunteers (including me). But for a museum to imply that I am a thief - it makes my blood boil. And for a museum to think that it somehow has more of a "right" to collect items than an individual (so they can most likely store them away where no one will ever enjoy them) is the height of arrogant elitism. And then I guess it's better to have less informed, time-clock punching employees than passionate, knoweledgeable ones. That is an insult to all museum visitors. Sometimes rules are bad and wrong and only there to protect the people in power, who make the rules. I say take the job, fight the rule, get it changed.

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Garandomatic

I guess I get the point behind it, but the point on me which they could kiss is my behind. I never gave museum work much thought since there aren't many near me, let alone military-history museums. Looks like being a history teacher has some advantages after all.

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I see Dirk is at it again...

 

I worked for this museum when it was still located in Delft. They knew I was a re-enactor, and I even did a few displays during special events at the museum. Then, out of the blue, I was told the same things (being a competitor etc.) and that I could go or sign the agreement. I chose the latter, and stopped all my re-enactment activities. The season was over anyway and the museum would close in a few months anyway.

 

I can see the museum's point of view, but when I was hired no one asked me about collecting or anything. At least now they discuss it before you sign a contract...

 

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manayunkman

Off topic of sorts but what happened to the war museum in Leiden ?

 

As for the question at hand I see 3 options.

 

1.You can sign the document and do as you please but you must also accept the penalty of being divided against yourself.

 

You will be living 2 lives, 2 stories, 2 lies, 2 hearts, too costly, too hard, too crazy and dishonest.

 

2. Sign and obey the rules.

 

You will live one life with sanity, honesty and direction.

 

Are you going to live by principles or do as you please ?

 

3. Find some other job.

 

Are you going to let the pleasure of collecting determine the direction of your life ?

 

Where do you find a job in todays economy that you love ?

 

Don't let the tail wag the dog.

 

You can always quit after finding another job that lets you collect.

 

Or maybe you have another job lined up ?

 

 

 

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The sad thing is that there has been a number of cases in the past where someone just 'could not resist' adding something to their own collection. And as one of the most important things a museum director has to do is protect his collection. There have also been lots of cases where museum people find out someone has something that might be a potential donation, but they end up buying, or diverting it elsewhere for themselves or just for money. It really does happen.

 

So there is a very good reason for these rules. Of course everyone will say they would never do such a thing, but no one knows exactly what goes on in other's minds. What if someone told you they had a named, wonderful D-day helmet they had since 1944. what is the temptation to tell them it is not the focus of the museum, but you know someone that would be interested...

 

It's a catch 22 that the people that know this stuff the best are the one's prevented from dealing with it, but there is a valid reason and you cannot blame the board of directors for wanting it to be so. You can always call in experts to look at items, but giving them keys and access? I've run into this as well, and it can suck big time. But then most of life does.

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Normandy1944

Thanks for all the input guys.

As I've said in the first post I've signed the papers (January), so I've said to myself I'll obey the rules.

This code is indeed to protect the collection, so I understand it.

It's just as jgawne said:

 

The sad thing is that there has been a number of cases in the past where someone just 'could not resist' adding something to their own collection. And as one of the most important things a museum director has to do is protect his collection. There have also been lots of cases where museum people find out someone has something that might be a potential donation, but they end up buying, or diverting it elsewhere for themselves or just for money. It really does happen.

 

So there is a very good reason for these rules. Of course everyone will say they would never do such a thing, but no one knows exactly what goes on in other's minds. What if someone told you they had a named, wonderful D-day helmet they had since 1944. what is the temptation to tell them it is not the focus of the museum, but you know someone that would be interested...

 

It's a catch 22 that the people that know this stuff the best are the one's prevented from dealing with it, but there is a valid reason and you cannot blame the board of directors for wanting it to be so. You can always call in experts to look at items, but giving them keys and access? I've run into this as well, and it can suck big time. But then most of life does.

 

Suppose someone offers me a great D-Day helmet or uniform (perhaps a veteran).

If this happens I really feel like I'm in a battle with myself.

I want to be a good and trustworthy employee, but on the other hand I want to collect D-Day objects to tell other people what happend in Normandy.

 

At this moment working in the heritage field is what I want to do.

Perhaps I should search for work in exhibition design?

Or start my own little business?

Anyway, the coming 2 years are still studying and learning for me, so I've got 2 years to decide what I'm going to do.

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Normandy1944

Is this a paying job ?

 

My current contract is for a paid job, based on 36 hours a week.

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Interesting discussion.

Over the past four years I have been a civilian member of the local reserves museum board. They have a small museum dedicated to the regiment built into the armoury.

About three years ago the original curator quit...he was a serving reserve member with decades of service in both the regular force and reserve. The original first curator was not a collector and he visited my personal "Mini Museum" in my basement. As a board we approved the selection of a serving reserve member to assume the role of curator, he was military vehicle restorer and vehicle collector. After a two years of inactivity we, as a board, terminated his role as curator. Late last year the Commanding Officer of the local Squadron of the regiment asked me if I would assume the role of curator of the Museum. This was approved and endorsed by the regimental commander. I requested a guideline of expectations and what exactly they wanted me to do. In about a week they came back with a run down of what they expected and what needed to be done. I accepted the position as a volunteer and proceeded to formulate a plan of action with a rough timeline of when thing needed to be completed. The first thing was to develop a policy manual to operate by then begin work of restoring the museum to "tour ready" condition. The next thing was to return the focus of the displays to the regiment and the units it perpetuated. I should note, that I am not a college or university trained curator...I pointed this out right away. They laughed and said they did not need someone with a piece of paper, they needed someone to do what has to be done to achieve the goals set out. I also stressed that I am a collector and my focus is not what the museum is about. They said that what they need is an experienced collector who can cut through the crap to find good artifacts as they become available, as well as be able to run the joint in an efficient manner. So far after six months I achieved all of the goals set out save one...the inventory (which will be completed by November).

I can understand, as an administrator, why there would be hesitance in hiring a collector of what the museum is focused on. They obviously have been ripped off by crooked thieves. However, I feel that all museums need someone on board who is a collector, who has access to a wide network of resources for materiel and who is dedicated to the museum. If they do not have someone like this it turns into a case of the blind leading the blind, and it will not end well.

Trust is a huge thing here and If a young fresh out of college kid comes and applies for a position in a museum, you can guarantee they will be pushing broom for a long time before they are allowed access to the collection. If they do not like that then they have chosen the wrong field of endeavor.

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While I don't think asking you to stop collecting is any of their business, I do see the *potential* conflicts of interest. Looking it at from the museum's view point is essentially that the museum preemptively accusing employees of stealing. "Stop collecting you thief!" Kind of silly when you think about it. The other point about being competition is also understandable but true. There are free markets, and sometimes you don't get what you want.

 

I think something that would be an obvious conflict of interest would be if you were say someone in charge of procuring items and were a collector. What items would end up in your collection and what items would make it to display? No one would ever know and if the items were donated, there wouldn't be any kind of evidence to the contrary. That's about the only one that would be a legitimate concern.

 

 

Just my two cents :D

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Could you still collect another era of militaria and still work at the museum or do they stipulate ALL militaria collecting?

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