The ICOM Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums supplements, and is complementary to, the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. It was developed
between December 2006 and November 2012 to address specific issues relevant to the life and earth sciences. The objective of this document is to establish a minimum standard of practice, which can be built on by individual institutions.
The document begins with a Position Statement that describes the purpose of
natural history museums and states that all information should be accurate and with a responsible consideration of the academic disciplines concerned. Additionally, members of ICOM NATHIST should take the Committee’s published position statements into account when developing policy.
Section 1 covers Human Remains. Although the ICOM Code of Ethics covers care and display of human remains, natural history institutions that include this in their collections can face complex and specific challenges. This section covers standards of compliance with legislation, the origin and descendants of the people represented by the material, dignity of presentation and repatriation.
The second section covers standards relating to specimens of other extant and recent organisms, including invertebrates and plants. The section includes collecting, displaying and storing this material, as well as its associated data. Emphasis is placed on ensuring provenance, sharing data and dignity of display. Museums that display live specimens are covered by augmenting the standards set by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Section 3 considers Rocks, Minerals and Fossils. Fossil material is considered to be the traces or remains of plants, animals and other organisms preserved for geological timescales by virtue of their deposition conditions. It is argued that they should be treated appropriately within legislation. This includes minimising environme tal impacts of collection.
Collecting and restitution is addressed in the fourth section. It covers ethical consideration around deposition and repatriation of natural history specimens, as
well as data sharing and ‘value add’ activities such as object conservation and stabilisation.
Section 5 gives standards for Duty of Care for People and Objects, which includes occupational safety and health, exchange of objects and best practice guidelines for storage and handling.
Section 6, Publication, is the final in the document. It sets out the need for natural history data collected to be published, fully disseminating the work to the scientific community. Appendix gives standards for Taxidermy.