Professional Ethics and the Caring Museum

By: Kerry Wilson  

Drawing upon ethnographic research undertaken with prison library services and museums working in health care settings in England (2017-19), the paper presents a case study of professional ethics in contemporary museum work. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project has explored the ethical implications of collaborative, cross-sector cultural work undertaken in relation to two priority public policy agendas, including public health and well-being and prison education reform. Using a ‘communities of practice’ (CoP) conceptual framework, the research investigated the transitional efficacy of museum and library sectors’ ethical codes of practice when working in collaborative contexts. The research has furthermore examined the extent to which shared values and ‘situated’ ethical standards are serendipitously developed between collaborating professionals and organisations as cross-sector CoPs mature. Indicative findings and discussion points include the extent of collaborative complexity in 'integrated' forms of policy-responsive cultural work; tensions between political ideology, professional integrity and ethical practice; emotional labour and care strategies in the ethical community of [cultural] practice. The research provides evidence-based guidance on shared codes of ethics in cross-sector cultural work, emphasising the relationship between professional values and the capacity of museum and library sectors to respond and contribute to cross-government public policy agendas in England.

Museums, Knowledge, Culture, Public Policy, Collaboration, Professional ethics, Health, Well-being
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Kerry Wilson

Head of Research, Institute of Cultural Capital, Liverpool John Moores University

Kerry is Head of Research at the Institute of Cultural Capital, a cultural policy research centre jointly hosted by Liverpool John Moores Universty and the Universty of Liverpool in the UK. She has led a number of research and evaluation projects covering varied aspects of cultural work, its value and impact, for a range of commissioning organisations and funding bodies including the British Council, Arts Council England, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council. Kerry's research interests, in a cultural sector context, include professional identities, ethics and codes of practice; instrumental value and public policy; and cross-sector communities of practice. Her work in the field was recognised by the award of a mid-career Leadership Fellowship by the AHRC in 2017.