Skip to content.
Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics

Preface

The following document is built upon the previous Science Museum of Minnesota Code of Ethics originally approved by the Board of Trustees on September 7, 1997. This new document now conforms to the current Minnesota Charities Review Council guidelines for addressing potential conflicts of interest and the American Association of Museums framework for ethics codes. It also addresses the Science Museum of Minnesota's interest and responsibility to foster an environment that will ensure that its work and mission meet the highest ethical standards. This code presents a set of principles that will guide the Museum's work in a way that achieves both internal and external expectations for ethical behavior. It was reviewed by a cross-divisional workgroup comprised of the following staff:

Staff Member Division/Department
Bob Breck Marketing/Membership
Brenda Raney Human Resources
Sara Graffunder Education Division
Pat Hamilton Exhibits Division
Jackie Hoff Research and Collections/Collections
Valerie Lattary Program Division
Ron Lawrenz Research and Collections Division
Kristin Midelfort External Relations Division/Development
Ellen O'Connor Omni Theater Division
Maija Sedzielarz Education Division/School Services
Jane Wangberg Program Division/Volunteer Department

 

Drafts were also reviewed by the senior management and the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees approved this Code of Ethics for the Science Museum of Minnesota on December 8, 2004 and it will remain in effect until such time that Board takes action to modify or replace this code. The code will be reviewed annually by each member of the Board of Trustees. Any changes to the code will be communicated immediately to the whole Board of Trustees and all employees.

CODE OF ETHICS
(Approved by Board of Trustees on December 8, 2004)

Statement of Purpose
Museum governance, as a non-profit institution, is a public trust. The Science Museum of Minnesota is the trustee of scientific history, collections, knowledge, and education for Minnesota and the nation. As such, the Museum and its representatives must act with integrity, cultural sensitivity, and in accordance with appropriate laws and ethical principles in order to maintain the public confidence with which the Museum has been entrusted.

The Museum protects and enhances its collections and, programs, as well as its physical, human, and financial resources for some benefit to society. As such, it must ensure that all these resources support the Museum's mission, respond to the pluralism of society, and respect the diversity of the natural and cultural common wealth. The Museum accepts the responsibility to ensure that all those who work for or on behalf of the Museum understand and support its mission, and understand the public trust responsibilities that its mission entails.

Additionally, the Museum is accountable for stewardship of its property and collections, conducting its programs, and serving the public with accuracy, honesty, and sensitivity. Since staff, volunteers, and Board members are never wholly separable from their institution, any Museum-related action by an individual may reflect on the Museum or be attributed to it.

The law provides minimum standards with which the Museum must comply, however, the Museum must act both legally and ethically. The principles outlined in this code of ethics are meant to guide the actions of staff, volunteers, and others doing work on behalf of the Museum and to be used as a benchmark in evaluating the success of meeting our obligations in that regard.

This code is written with the understanding that every relationship and action that exists entails a certain degree of ethical responsibility. It is also understood that ethical responsibility extends beyond the individual to governance of the institution at all levels, and that the Museum as a whole must build and live up to its ethical standards. Thus the individual members of the institution and the institution itself have a responsibility to the public good and to those people who provide public service through the Museum.

A. Ethical Responsibility of the Institution

1. Mission

All activities within the Museum will be related to and in keeping with the mission of the Museum. The Museum ensures that its collections, programs, and its physical, human, and financial resources are protected, maintained, and developed in support of the Museum's mission. Decisions regarding the appropriateness of exhibits, programs, collection activities, will be measured, in part, by their relationship to the mission of the Museum. Property, including physical and intellectual property or collections, belonging to the Museum will not be used by the Museum or released for use by any other party for any purpose contrary to the mission of the Museum. The Museum will use professional standards and practices to inform and guide all Museum operations and activities.

a. Commercial activities:
Commercial activities undertaken by the Science Museum will not violate or compromise the integrity of the Museum's Mission, the ability of the Museum or its staff to maintain professional standards, or the Museum's not-for-profit status. Control of a product (e.g. exhibition, publication, programming) will neither be delegated to, or abrogated by, outside parties in order to obtain financial support. Commercial activities associated with the museum, as well as the publicity related to them, will also be in keeping with the mission of the Museum, relevant to the basic educational purpose of the Museum, and the integrity of the permanent collections.

b. Fundraising practices:
Donations will not be sought or accepted from any donor where such a donation would compromise the integrity or image of the Museum or its mission or which constricts the Museum in its ability to present any side of an issue. Please refer to the Museum's Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Disclosure of Certain Interests (Appendix A).

2. Public Trust

a. Fiduciary and legal responsibility
The Museum will act responsibly in its financial decisions so as to protect the financial support necessary to maintain the Museum's mission and collections for the public trust. The Museum, its staff, its policies, and its practices will conform to and comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and all applicable international treaties. The Museum ensures that its governance will promote the public good rather than individual financial gain.

b. Programs and audience
Museums serve society by advancing the scientific understanding and appreciation of the natural and cultural common wealth through exhibitions, research, scholarship, publications, and educational activities. These programs further the Museum's mission and will represent the best science and scientific theory, and are responsive to the concerns, interests, and needs of society. Therefore, the Museum ensures that its programs support its mission and public trust responsibilities. Furthermore, the Museum ensures that its programs are founded on scientific scholarship and marked by intellectual integrity. Museum programs will be accessible and will encourage participation of the widest possible audience consistent with its mission and available resources.

The Museum will ensure that its exhibits and programs are scientifically accurate, based on the best knowledge available to at the time, and that they do not perpetuate stereotypes.

c. Community
The Museum will consider community input in the planning and development of exhibits, programs, and events. The Museum will act in cooperation with other institutions and organizations to further the mission of the Museum and that of the other institutions and organizations. The Museum will strive to be responsive to and represent the interests of the community and society.

d. Institutional Conflict of Interest
The Science Museum of Minnesota strives to meet the highest ethical standards pertaining to addressing potential conflicts of interest. Please refer to the attached Science Museum of Minnesota Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Disclosure of Certain Interests (Appendix A).

3. Diversity

The Museum will value historic and scientific research, public education, and the need to pursue these activities in a respectful, non-intrusive manner that recognizes the rights of nations and peoples. Relationships between the Museum and all cultural groups will be governed by respect for human rights, compliance with applicable law, and for the values of scientific research and public education.

The Museum has a responsibility to foster an environment that encourages and accepts religious, cultural, physical, and experiential differences. Given that, the Museum has the responsibility to teach and train its personnel to meet changing diversity goals and issues.

The Museum also has a responsibility to ensure that its workforce reflects the diversity of the community it serves. Differences including but not limited to race, age, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, gender, educational level, economic class, and cultural heritage will be welcomed, sought out, and valued by the Museum.

The Museum has a responsibility to the public to design promotional materials, programs, and environments to welcome underrepresented populations and audiences not currently being served. People's differing needs will be taken into account in all our work. The Museum will approach these challenges with a sincere interest in serving the community, taking care not to exploit the relationship the Museum is building. It is the responsibility of the Museum to provide education and development opportunities that will help Museum personnel better serve diverse audiences.

4. Fair personnel policies, procedures, and enforcement

The Museum has an ethical responsibility to treat Museum personnel with respect, honesty, openness, and dignity. The Museum will provide fair policies and procedures that are enforced consistently throughout the organization. The Museum has an ethical responsibility to provide a personnel policy to all Museum personnel. Rights and responsibilities of Museum personnel will be clearly communicated. Grievance procedures and avenues of recourse will be accessible to all Museum personnel. The Museum will maintain a relationship with staff in which shared roles are recognized and separate responsibilities respected. The Museum also ensures that policies are articulated and prudent oversight is practiced.

The Museum has an ethical responsibility to act in good faith in making decisions affecting Museum personnel in such matters as compensation, job security, and professional development.

The Museum will respect the professional expertise and opinions of Museum personnel. Governance is structured so that the resolution of issues involving professional matters incorporate the opinions and professional judgments of relevant members of the staff including those who will be affected by the decisions. Where the professional opinions or judgments of Museum personnel conflict with the policies or decisions of the Museum, the Museum will not require Museum personnel to compromise their professional opinions, judgments, or reputations to promote the Museum's position. Conversely, no Museum personnel will use their professional opinions, judgments, or reputations to compromise the Museum's integrity or reputation. Museum personnel will use appropriate means to change Museum policies and decisions when they feel that those policies or decisions may have a damaging effect on the Museum or on the profession.

5. Collections and Property

a. Collections
The ownership, care, and use of objects, specimens, and living collections representing the world's natural and cultural common wealth confers special responsibilities to museums. The stewardship of collections entails the highest public trust and carries with it the presumption of rightful ownership, permanence, care, documentation, accessibility, and responsible disposal.

The Museum has a unique obligation to its collections and the value that they hold for society. The ethical obligation of the Museum as a repository is to apply the appropriate high standard of stewardship. As such the Museum will manage, maintain, and conserve objects in its ownership or care according to the best practices and standards of the discipline they represent. The Museum will work to ensure that collections held in its care and stewardship will support its mission and public trust responsibilities. Collections in the Museum's custody will be lawfully held, protected, secure, unencumbered, cared for, and preserved. It also needs to ensure that collections in its custody are appropriately accounted for, managed, maintained, and documented. Collections-related activities will promote the public good rather than individual financial gain. Competing claims of ownership that may be asserted in connection with objects in its custody will be handled openly, seriously, responsively and with respect for the dignity of all parties involved.

The Museum ensures that access to the collections and related information is permitted and regulated within guidelines presented in its collections policy and in compliance with national standards.

The unique and special nature of human remains, and funerary and sacred objects must be recognized within the context of specific cultural norms. The Museum will consult with the appropriate community leaders to identify these objects or artifacts and use that consultation to inform all decisions concerning such collections.

Please refer to the Science Museum of Minnesota Collections Policy Statement on Collections Management for further information and guidelines governing collecting activity, data, scientific value, accessioning, and environmental impacts.

b. Museum Property
The property of the Museum, whether physical or intellectual, is acquired, produced, and maintained for the sole purpose of furthering the Museum's mission. Use of Museum property by Museum personnel for projects outside of Museum business will not occur without the prior express consent of the Museum. Museum personnel will not use property or materials owned by the Museum for personal profit or gain, or to further political, personal, or religious causes, or in any way that would reflect negatively on the Museum.

6. Personal Data

The Museum abides by the highest ethical and legal standards when dealing with personal data and in dealing with human subjects. Personal data is gathered, maintained, and used only for the purpose of furthering the mission of the Museum. The Museum ensures that it complies with all State and Federal Laws pertaining to the gathering and use of personal data and testing of human subjects.

7. The Museum and environment

The Museum has an ethical responsibility to provide the public with scientific information and opinion about the complex and interrelated environmental opportunities and challenges facing the world. The Museum will incorporate and implement, wherever feasible, the best in renewable energy, energy-efficient, and environmental design and operation in its facilities and programs and will model such activities to the public.

8. Use of animals

The Museum has an ethical responsibility to encourage respect for all living things and an appreciation of the uniqueness of each individual organism. Use of animals, both live and dead, will be circumspect and done only when the educational and research value of real specimens justifiably exceeds other available resources. The acquisition of both live and dead animal specimens will adhere to legal, humane, and scientific standards. In such cases where live animals are used by the Museum, the Museum will take every effort to ensure the humane care and treatment of each animal.

B. The Ethical Responsibility of the Museum's Personnel

1. Professional Conduct:

Museum personnel have a separate duty to the public trust. As such, Museum personnel will understand and fulfill their responsibility to act corporately, not as individuals. This duty includes, but is not limited to, the gathering of scientific information, the protection of that scientific information, and the honest, accurate, and appropriate dissemination of that information to the public.

Museum personnel, when acting in their capacity as representatives of the Museum, will respect and promote the codes, policies, and decisions of the Museum. Where the professional opinions or judgments of Museum personnel conflict with the policies or decisions of the Museum, Museum personnel will not use their position to compromise the Museum's integrity or reputation.

Museum personnel will avoid situations that could, rightly or wrongly, be construed as improper conduct of any kind at all times and in all places where they are representing, or construed as representing, the Museum.

2. Working Relationships:

The working relationship among all Museum personnel is based on equity and mutual respect. Museum personnel will use the different skills, experiences, and styles that people bring to the Museum to foster opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. It is the ethical responsibility of Museum personnel to treat each other and the public respectfully and with sensitivity in the context of differences including but not limited to race, age, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, gender, educational level, economic class, and cultural heritage. Museum personnel have a responsibility to maintain an open mind concerning diversity and what can be learned from new experiences.

3. Personal Conflict of Interest:

Disclosure is fundamental to understanding and dealing with potential conflicts of interest. Disclosure provides an opportunity to examine a proposed activity to determine whether an actual or potential conflict of interest may exist and if so, to resolve it in a manner that is mutually satisfactory to both the Museum and to Museum personnel.

4. Outside employment and activities:

Museum personnel will recognize that when outside activity or employment is related to their regular duties for the Museum there is the potential that they are perceived as representing the Museum in these activities. Museum personnel will discuss with their supervisor all aspects of the outside activity or employment that may be construed to impact the reputation of the Museum. Together they will work to eliminate the potential for any perceptions of that activity, accurate or inaccurate, that would reflect negatively on the Museum. Museum personnel will not use their Museum position for personal gain at the expense of the Museum or appear to compromise the integrity of the Museum.

Please refer to the Employee Handbook and "Guidelines for Outside Consulting and Teaching Activities by Museum Staff" for further information governing outside employment activities.

5. Gifts, favors, discounts, dispensations:

All Museum personnel who are authorized to spend Museum funds will do so with impartiality, honesty, and with regard only to the best interest of the Museum. Museum personnel will not receive gifts, favors, personal discounts, or other dispensations in carrying out the business of the Museum when there is the potential perception that by receiving such gifts and favors a conflict of interest is created.

6. Personal collecting:

Museum personnel will not compete with the Museum in any personal collecting activity or use their Museum affiliation to promote their personal collecting activities.

7. Youth:

Youth are a vital part of the Museum community and will be respected as peers who have valuable input to bring to the Museum. Museum personnel will encourage youth to become active participants in their learning experience by allowing them the freedom to explore and expand the opportunities available to them. The Museum has high expectations for the potential of all youth regardless of race, gender, class, or physical ability to excel in science, math, and technology. Museum personnel have a responsibility to be supportive and encouraging of youth, sensitive to their needs, and able to provide direction and guidance.

Young people come to the Museum with different needs for learning, stages of development, and life experiences and look to adults for mentorship. Since adults naturally wield a certain authority and power over youth, Museum personnel will take care not to inappropriately direct youth or misuse the authority of the relationship.

As minors, youth can never be considered wholly outside of the context of their families. Museum personnel have a responsibility to keep a young person's family apprised of successes and activities of their children as well as activities that may involve a parental or guardian decision. Museum personnel also have an ethical duty to direct and guide youth in Museum-related activities that are appropriate to the family experiences and cultures that they bring with them.

Please refer to the Policies and Procedures Manual fore Youth Science Center Programs, Summer2004, and the Employee Manual for Instructors and Camp Directors, Youth and Family Programs, 2004 for SMM guidelines concerning ethical behavior in working with youth.

Review

The entire document will be reviewed for compliance and adequacy on a regular basis following the adoption of the guidelines. This document will be redrafted as required or appropriate to comply with new or changing ethical guidelines.

Closure statement

The Museum and its personnel will strive to comply with all the guidelines outlined in this document. In the case that ethical issues arise that are not covered, or seemingly covered, by the preceding guidelines they will be brought to the attention of the Director of Human Resources and the Senior Administration of the Museum for resolution.

November 24, 2004

return to top

DEFINITIONS

Code of ethics: Formal statement of the body of moral precepts or rules of conduct considered to be the standards for a profession.

Commercial Activity: Any profit making activity aligned with the mission or interest of the museum but outside the museum's normal line of business.

Personnel: Anyone working on behalf of the Museum, paid or unpaid, including but not limited to full and part-time staff, volunteers, interns, Research Associates, Trustees, and consultants.

Policy: broad statement outlining the intent of the institution with respect to one or more of its objectivities, as adopted by the Board of Trustees. Once a policy is adopted by the Board of Trustees, a formal amendment procedure is followed to change it. A governing principle; a framework for carrying out work; a definition of what is to be done.

Policy, collections: an approved, written statement of principles that provides a guidance system to achieve organizational purposes, objectives, and responsibilities and adopted by a governing board or authority.

Procedure: a statement of how a governing principle will be implemented; rules and regulations applied to a framework; a definition of how a policy is to be carried out.

Qualified Content Expert: An individual with the scientific or technological training and expertise to render appropriate judgments concerning specific identifications, interpretations, or presentations on behalf of the Museum.

return to top

BIBLIOGRAPHY

American Association of Museums. 2000. Code of Ethics for Museums. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums.

—. 2000. Codes of Ethics and Practice of Interest to Museums. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, Technical Information Service.

American Association of Museums Curators Committee. Code of Ethics for Curators. American Association of Museums. 1996. 2 March 2004.
<http://aamweb.aam-us.org/members/infocenter/reference/standards_factsheets.cfm>

—. 1983. Code of ethics for curators. Museum News 61(3):38-40.

American Association of Museums Registrars Committee. 1985. Code of ethics for registrars. Museum News 63(3):42-46.

Cato, Paisley S., Julia Golden, and Suzanne B. McLaren. 2003. Museum Wise. Washington, DC: Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Malaro, M.C. 1998. A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections, 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

—. 1994. Museum Governance. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Science Museum of Minnesota, Youth and Family Programs. 2004. Employee Manual for Instructors and Camp Directors. Science Museum of Minnesota Education Division.

Science Museum of Minnesota, Youth Science Center. 2004. Policies and Procedures Manual for YSC Programs, Summer 2004. Science Museum of Minnesota Education Division.

Weisz, Jackie. 2000. Codes of Ethics and Practice of Interest to Museums. Professional Practice Series. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums Technical Information Service.

return to top

Appendix A

The Science Museum of Minnesota
Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Disclosure of Certain Interests

This conflict of interest policy is designed to help board members, officers and employees of The Science Museum of Minnesota identify situations that present potential conflicts of interest and to provide The Science Museum of Minnesota with a procedure which, will allow a transaction to be treated as valid and binding even though a director, officer or employee has or may have a conflict of interest with respect to the transaction. The policy is intended to comply with the procedure prescribed in Minnesota Statutes, Section 317A.255, governing conflicts of interest for directors of nonprofit corporations.

1. Conflict of Interest Defined:
A. Outside Interests
a. A contract or transaction between The Science Museum of Minnesota and a member of the Board of Trustees, Employee or Family Member
b. A contract or transaction between an entity in which a member of the Board of Trustees, Employee or Family Member has a material financial interest or of which such person is a director, officer, agent, partner, associate, trustee, personal representative, receiver, guardian, custodian, conservator or other legal representative.

B. Outside Activities:
a. A member of the Board of Trustees or Employee competing with The Science Museum of Minnesota in the rendering of services or in any other contract or transaction with a third party.
b. A member of the Board of Trustees or Employee having a material financial interest in; or serving as a director, officer, employee, agent partner, associate, trustee, personal representative, receiver, guardian, custodian, conservator or other legal representative of, or consultant to; an entity or individual that competes with The Science Museum of Minnesota in the provision of services or in any other contract or transaction with a third party.

C. Gifts, Gratuities and Entertainment: A member of the Board of Trustees or Employee accepting gifts, entertainment or other favors from any individual or entity that:
a. Does or is seeking to do business with or is a competitor of The Science Museum of Minnesota; or
b. Has received, is receiving or is seeking to receive a loan or grant, or to secure other financial commitments from The Science Museum of Minnesota;
c. Is a charitable organization operating in Minnesota;

Under circumstances where it might be inferred that such action was intended to influence or possibly would influence the member of the Board of Trustees or Employee in the performance of his or her duties. This does not preclude the acceptance of items of nominal or insignificant value or entertainment of nominal or insignificant value which are not related to any particular transaction or activity of The Science Museum of Minnesota.

2. Definitions
A. A "Conflict of Interest" is any circumstance described in Part 1 of this policy
B. A "Family Member" is a spouse, domestic partner, parent, child or spouse of a child, brother, sister, or spouse of a brother or sister, of a Responsible Person.
C. A "Material Financial Interest": in an entity is a financial interest of any kind, which, in view of all the circumstances, is substantial enough that it would, or reasonably could, affect a member of the Board of Trustees or Employee or Family Member's judgment with respect to transactions to which the entity is a party. This includes all forms of compensation.
D. A "Contract or Transaction" is any agreement or relationship involving the sale or purchase of goods, services, or rights of any kind, the providing or receipt of a loan or grant, the establishment of any other type of pecuniary relationship, or review of a charitable organization by The Science Museum of Minnesota. The making of a gift to The Science Museum of Minnesota is not a contract or transaction.

3. Procedures:
A. Prior to Board of Trustees or committee action on a contract or transaction involving a conflict of interest, a director or committee member having a conflict of interest and who is in attendance at the meeting shall disclose all facts material to the conflict of interest. Such disclosure shall be reflected in the minutes of the meeting.
B. A Trustee or committee member who plans not to attend a meeting at which he or she has reason to believe that the Board of Trustees or committee will act on a matter in which the person has a conflict of interest shall disclose to the chair of the meeting all facts material to the conflict of interest. The chair shall report the disclosure at the meeting and the disclosure shall be reflected in the minutes of the meeting.
C. A person who has a conflict of interest shall not participate in or be permitted to hear the Board of Trustees's or committee's discussion of the matter except to disclose the material facts and to respond to questions. Such person shall not attempt to exert his or her personal influence with respect to the matter, either at or outside the meeting.
D. A person who has a conflict of interest with respect to a contract or transaction that will be voted on at a meeting shall not be counted in determining the presence of a quorum for purposes of the vote. The person having a conflict of interest may not vote on the contract or transaction and shall not be present in the meeting room when the vote is taken, unless the vote is by secret ballot. Such person's ineligibility to vote shall be reflected in the minutes of the meeting. For purposes of the paragraph, a member of the Board of Trustees of The Science Museum of Minnesota has a conflict of interest when he or she stands for election as an officer for re-election as a member of the Board of Trustees.
E. An Employee who is not a member of the Board of Trustees of The Science Museum of Minnesota, or shall disclose to his/her supervisor any conflict of interest that such Employee has with respect to a contract or transaction. Such disclosure shall be made as soon as the conflict of interest is known to the Employee. Employees shall refrain from any action that may influence The Science Museum of Minnesota's participation in such contract or transaction.

In the event it is not entirely clear that a conflict of interest exists, the Employee with the potential conflict shall disclose the circumstances to his/her supervisor, who shall determine whether there exists a conflict of interest that is subject to this policy.

4. Confidentiality:
Each member of the Board of Trustees or Employee shall exercise care not to disclose confidential information acquired if the disclosure of that information might be adverse to the interests of The Science Museum of Minnesota. Furthermore, a member of the Board of Trustees or an Employee shall not disclose or use information relating to the business of The Science Museum of Minnesota for the personal profit or advantage of the member of the Board of Trustees or Employee or Family Member.

5. Review of policy:
A. Each new member of the Board of Trustees and Employee shall be required to review a copy of this policy and to acknowledge in writing that he or she has done so.
B. Each member of the Board of Trustees and Employee shall annually complete a disclosure form identifying any relationships, positions or circumstances in which he or she is involved that could contribute to a conflict of interest arising. Such relationships, positions or circumstances might include service as a director of or consultant to a nonprofit organization, or ownership of a business that might provide goods or services to The Science Museum of Minnesota. Any such information shall be treated as confidential.
C. This policy will be reviewed annually by each member of the Board of Trustees. Any changes to the policy will be communicated immediately to the whole Board of Trustees and all Employees.

December 8, 2004

return to top