May 20, 2021
Northern States Conservation Center

Collections Caretaker eNewsletter
Legal Issues in Collections Management
Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. the newsletter is designed to bring you content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute and article.
In this Issue

Laws, Morals and Ethics
Featured Courses
June Courses
July Courses
August Courses
September Courses
Conferences and Meetings
By John Simmons

People often assume that acting legally, acting morally, and acting ethically are one and the same, but they are not.

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that has been defined as “the science of conduct.” Ethics are based on experience, and refined by being tested by experience. Ethics is derived from the Greek word ethike, which means character. By contrast, the word morals is derived from the Latin word moralis, meaning custom. It is quite possible to be moral without being ethical, or ethical without being moral. For example, if you turn in a dear friend and colleague for doing something nefarious in the collection, that may be within your ethical code as a museum professional but against your moral code as a friend.

Ethics is concerned with the distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong, and how this is applied to language, behavior, and thought. Ethical views are arrived at by asking questions and applying the answers to experience. Ethics is not abstract opinion or belief, as morals may be.

There is a slight technical difference between ethics in the philosophical sense (often called ethical theory or moral philosophy) and codes of ethics. However, a good code of ethics is grounded in philosophical ethical theory.
The primary purpose of a code of ethics is to raise the level of professional practice. Maintaining professional ethics strengthens the role and responsibilities of museums in society.

The first code of ethics for museum workers published by AAM was in 1925 as Code of Ethics for Museum Workers, based on practical wisdom and experience. The code was revised in 1987, and again in 1993/94. The code now “reflects the value system of the museum profession as it had developed from the late nineteenth century” (MacDonald 1991:178).

Several other codes of ethics for museums have been formulated since 1925, the best known and most significant of which is the ICOM (International Committee on Museums) code, which was accepted by ICOM in 1986. A number of countries have adopted this code. The ICOM code states that “The museum profession should understand two guiding principles; first, that museums are the object of a public trust whose value to the community is in direct proportion to the quality of service rendered; and, secondly, that intellectual ability and professional knowledge are not, in themselves, sufficient, but must be inspired by a high standard of ethical conduct.” Marie Malaro (190:37) says: “A code of ethics sets forth standards that a profession deems essential in order to uphold the integrity of the profession.”

Where do Ethics Come From?
Ethics obviously are derived from personal knowledge, so what is the relationship between personal attributes and professional conduct?
A truism: an institution’s values or standards = an institution’s ethics
  • But of course, we all have different personal ethics. So the challenge for the professional code of ethics “is to determine the common ground for maximizing shared values and to ascertain the means for resolving differences.”
Another truism: ethical values are instilled by education and training
  • “A code of ethics should describe a standard of integrity and competence beyond that required by law.” (Guy 1990:10)
  • “In a practical sense, ethics is necessary as a moderating factor between the extremes of intellectual control and impulse.” (Edson 1997:11)
Yet another truism: a code of ethics is a form of social and professional responsibility.
Three types of codes of ethics may guide the museum’s behavior:
  • Professional codes of ethics for museums that represent a consensus of the profession regarding ethical standards for institutions or certain types of institutions (such as the AAM’s Code of Ethics for Museums, or the codes of the American Zoological Association and American Association of State and Local History). These codes of ethics outline general principles that professionals agree are appropriate to museums or to specific disciplines within professions.
  • Professional codes of ethics for museum staff, that come from a consensus of particular professions regarding ethical standards for those professions, such as the Code of Ethics for Registrars, prepared by AAM’s Registrars Committee or the Code of Ethics for Archives, prepared by the Society of American Archivists.
  • Institutional codes of ethics that are specific to a particular museum, tailored to the museum’s particular values and circumstances, and approved by its governing authority. Institutional codes of ethics regulate the behavior of the museum’s governing authority, staff, and volunteers.
John E. Simmons runs Museologica, an independent consulting company, and serves as Adjunct Curator of Collections at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum and Art Gallery at Pennsylvania State University.
Want to learn more about this topic and other legal issues in Collections Management? Join Sarah Kapellusch for MS266: Legal Issues in Collections Management starting June 14, 2021.
Featured Course:
Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts
Rescheduled to June 7, 2021
Caring for furniture and wood artifacts demands an understanding of how and why wood deteriorates. This course offers a simplified explanation of the chemistry and structure of wood as well as the finished wooden object; be it either a totem pole, plow or a French polished table. Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts teaches students to identify woods, finishes and furniture styles, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to wood both in storage and on exhibit. Topics include preparing wood artifacts for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials with wood artifacts, housekeeping techniques for furniture and large objects on open display, basic repairs and three dimensional supports for storage or exhibit.
Are you providing the best care possible for your wooden artifacts? Would you like to learn more about wood and how to identify different kinds of wood? Join Diana Komejan for this informative and important course for all museums and historic houses that care for wooden artifacts and furniture. MS226 Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts begins June 7, 2021.
Featured Course:
Gallery Guides (Short Course)
Rescheduled to June 14, 2021

Self-guided brochures, exhibit labels, docent led tours, guest speakers, and audio tours are only a few of the methods available to guide visitors through an exhibit. Explore the strengths and challenges of many different methods and garner resources for further information. Learn how to determine which method works best with which exhibits and how to provide variety to enhance the visitor experience.
Join Karin Hostetter for the short course MS011 Gallery Guides now scheduled to begin June 14, 2021
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from 30 days prior to the start of that course. 
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
For our course list or to sign up:
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at

Earlybird Discount Deadline for July 2021 Courses is June 5, 2021

Earlybird Discount Deadline for August 2021 Courses is July 3, 2021

Earlybird Discount Deadline for September 2021 Courses is August 7, 2021
June Courses

June 14 to 25, 2021 NEW DATES
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
Self-guided brochures, exhibit labels, docent led tours, guest speakers, and audio tours are only a few of the methods available to guide visitors through an exhibit. Explore the strengths and challenges of many different methods and garner resources for further information. Learn how to determine which method works best with which exhibits and how to provide variety to enhance the visitor experience.
June 7 to July 2, 2021 NEW DATES
Instructor: Diana Komejan
Caring for furniture and wood artifacts demands an understanding of how and why wood deteriorates. This course offers a simplified explanation of the chemistry and structure of wood as well as the finished wooden object; be it either a totem pole, plow or a French polished table. Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts teaches students to identify woods, finishes and furniture styles, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to wood both in storage and on exhibit. Topics include preparing wood artifacts for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials with wood artifacts, housekeeping techniques for furniture and large objects on open display, basic repairs and three dimensional supports for storage or exhibit.

June 14 to July 9, 2021
Instructor: Sarah Kapellusch
In this course we will examine the most significant laws and regulations that affect collections management, including the legal organization of museums, responsibilities of governing boards, collections care, loans and gifts, international regulations, intellectual property, cultural appropriation, and freedom of expression.
July Courses

July 5 to 30, 2021
Instructor: Laura Elliff Cruz
Is your collection stacked, packed and stressed? Museum Storage Techniques has the solution. The course builds on its sister course, Museum Facilities and Furniture, which looks at the bigger storage environment.. The Museum Storage Techniques course emphasizes the needs of individual objects and collection groupings. Guidelines for specific materials are provided. Participants learn about storage materials and mounts and the most effective use of trays, drawers, shelves and cabinets.

July 5 to 30, 2021
Instructor: Peggy Schaller
Cataloging may not be the most exciting museum task, but it is among the most important. Without a clear knowledge of your holdings, you can't protect, care for, research or exhibit them. Without knowledge of an item's history, you can't properly appreciate its value to your museum. Cataloging Your Collection covers all details needed to catalog a collection. Procedures for handling, measuring and describing all types of objects and materials are discussed in detail. Participants receive sample forms and learn the best practices for numbering artifacts, performing inventory and assessing the condition of objects. Participants practice describing everyday objects and cataloging items from their own collections or households

July 5 to August 13, 2021
Instructor: Christina Cain
The only thing worse than mice or cockroaches in your kitchen, is finding them in your museum collection. Participants in Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives learn low-toxicity methods of controlling infestations. IPM is the standard method for treating incoming items and monitoring holdings. Integrated Pest Management for Museums, Libraries and Archives discusses how infestations occur, helps identify risks, provides feasible mitigation strategies, discusses the different techniques of treating infested materials, and helps you complete an IPM plan and monitoring schedule for your institution. The course covers pest identification, insects, rodent, birds, bats, other mammals and mold infestations, as well as other problems raised by participants.

July 5 to 30, 2021
Instructor: Peggy Schaller
This course will examine the role of ethics in museums and related institutions. Topics addressed will include the differences in ethics, laws, and morals; what ethics are and where they come from; the ethical codes that museum professionals follow; how ethics affect professional practices; why ethics are important; and how ethical standards can help museums and related institutions better serve society. Participants in the course will gain an understanding of the importance of ethics in professional museum practice, how codes of ethics are written and why they are important, and will develop an understanding of the most significant codes of ethics subscribed to by museum professionals.

July 5 to 30, 2021
Instructor: John Veverka
It’s often difficult to teach interpretive techniques and principles to others when you may have not had any formal training in interpretation yourself. The course provides ways to develop and deliver interpretive training courses and workshops for cultural sites and staff charged with developing interpretive training for their docents, volunteers, seasonal interpretive staff, or full time interpretive staff.
This course includes a copy of our new e-textbook, the Interpretive Trainers Handbook.
Course Goals: Upon completion of this course participants will:
- Have interpretive training program lesson plans and schedule of instructions drafted out.
- Have a working knowledge of key interpretive elements they should be teaching.

July 5 to 30, 2021
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
Co-Taught by Erin Gates
Embracing the benefits of having a digital presence for our museums will help us fulfill our missions and expand our reach. How can you optimize your educational outreach and build your community by making the wider world aware of your museum during the digital age? Learn valuable tools for how to best leverage the power of social media for both marketing and educational purposes. Discover the various ways in which you can provide live educational programming using social media livestreams and video-conference platforms for your social media following, school groups, or private revenue generating tours. Highlight your museum collections using digital tools and be a part of the growing use of AR/VR experiences to reach more visitors. Explore how digital tools help meet visitors' basic and growth needs, enabling them to potentially reach the peak experiences described in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The result is a deeper connection to your museum from a wide range of visitors. At the conclusion of this course, you will have the digital tool kit you need to digitize your museum education and an understanding of best practices when providing digital education programming.
August Courses

August 2 to September 10, 2021 NEW DATES
Instructor: Ernest Conrad
The museum's brick exterior wall is crumbling. The powder coated metal storage shelves have active rust under the foam padding. Objects in fur storage are covered in mold. It is raining in the exhibit hall. This is the damage that occurs to museum buildings or collection when staff do not understand preservation environments. Preservation Environments is essential knowledge for any collecting institution. Everyone should understand how humidity and temperature are controlled by a building and its mechanical system. For museum staff considering a new building - and any institution planning to expand or rebuild an existing one - Preservation Environments provide important information for calculating whether the proposed improvements will actually improve the environmental control of your protective enclosure. Participants learn the advantages and disadvantages of numerous methods of temperature and humidity control. Preservation Environments does not try to turn museum professionals into engineers. Rather, it arms them with the knowledge they need to work with engineers and maintenance professionals. And helps explain why damaged occurred and how to keep it from happening again.

August 2 to 27, 2021  NEW DATES!!!
Instructor: Sarah Kapellusch
A collection database is a necessary tool for accurate and efficient collections management. In Collection Management Databases you will learn what characteristics distinguish one database system from another; how a database can be used to manage inventory, conservation, pest management, and other aspects of collections management; as well as how to prepare your collection and documentation for entry into a database.

August 2 to 27, 2021
Instructor: Elizabeth Burton
Cobwebs in the gallery, dust on the dinosaur skeleton, mice in storage - a dirty museum results in poor visitor experience and poor collections preservation. In a museum, cleanliness really is next to godliness. Museum Cleaning Basics explores everything you need to know about cleaning your collections. Participants learn when to clean - and when not to clean. They also learn how to make those decisions. Topics range from basic housekeeping to specific techniques for specific objects. You will learn why cleaning is important and how to prevent damage when cleaning. We will look at specific techniques that minimize damage while getting the work done. And we will discuss when to call in a specialist, such as a conservator. Students will create a housekeeping manual for their institution.

August 2 to 27, 2021
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
The world of museum education is as varied as the imagination. From school field trips to online blogs, from 2-year-olds to senior citizens, and from formal programs to volunteering, it is all part of the educational delivery system of a museum. In Education in Museums, survey the education programs offered at your site. Determine what exhibits and collections need better representation through education. Develop a long term plan of education program development for your site that you can use to improve services to your community.

August 2 to 27, 2021
Instructor: Stefani Pendergast
Moving collections is a daunting task. Fragile items need special packing and care to be safely transported. Large, heavy or awkward items like dinosaurs and oversized sculptures require special equipment and support from local authorities. How do you design your project to meet the budget and timing demands of your administration? Are your collections over-packed in acidic boxes and does your move includes improving their storage and care? Collections often take up more room when they are stored properly. How do you determine your needed storage space when the collection is decompressed? Moving Collections provides an overview of how to plan and manage a move to avoid the many pitfalls. The course includes: defining your project, developing a Request for Proposal (RFP), developing a work plan, staffing, and packing protocols. Whether you are moving part of the collection within your building or moving the entire collection to another facility, Moving Collections provides a blueprint for you to follow.
September Courses

September 6 to October 1, 2021
Instructor: Diana Komejan
Archaeological finds come out of the ground fragile - and they often stay that way. Yet archaeologists and museum professionals have few clear guidelines for handling, moving, storing and displaying such materials. Participants in Care of Archaeological Artifacts From the Field to the Lab learn techniques for safely lifting and packing artifacts, safe transportation and temporary and permanent storage. The course also covers a broad range of excavation environments, including the Arctic, wet sites, tropical and temperate. Though Care of Archaeological Artifacts is not intended to train archaeological conservators, it is designed to help participants understand what can and can't be done to save the artifacts they unearth.

September 6 to Oct 1, 2021
Instructor: Elizabeth Burton
Caring for paintings requires some knowledge of the component structure of paintings and the reaction of those components to both natural and man-made environments. This course looks at the painting structure, the effects of damaging environments, and proposes simple steps for basic care. Topics include the structure of paintings, proper condition reporting with standard damage vocabulary, and basic care and handling including environments, storage, and transport. The course is intended to help those entrusted with the care of paintings in any environment.

September 6 to October 1, 2021
Instructor: Tom Bennett
Matting and Framing teaches the materials and techniques of conservation-quality framing. For display, matting and framing provides both protective and aesthetic contributions to art on paper. Students will learn about different types of enclosures, different mat styles and cutting methods, the pros and cons of different backing boards and glazing, and different methods of attaching items to a mat, some of which do not involve adhering hinges to art on paper. Lectures, illustrations, product resources, and additional informational references will be provided.

September 6 to October 1, 2021
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
Have you done some evaluation but did not get helpful information? Do you wish you could do evaluations, but think it is too hard or too expensive? Do you wonder how to get people to use an offered program more? Evaluations are feasible and easy. This course will help you determine what you really want to know, choose the right process to gather the information, develop meaningful questions, and figure out what the results tell you. Please have a program or text in mind (real or imagined) to work with during the course. Note: this course will not be looking at statistical analysis.

September 6 to October 1, 2021
Instructor: John Veverka
There is more to a guided tour than information – you also need inspiration. This course will help curators teach and coach their docents and volunteers to create interpretive stories and experiences that will help make their presentations “come to life” for their visitors.
This training course will help curators help prepare their docents for tours that:
1. Have an interpretive theme.
2. Have accomplishable objectives.
3. Has about 7 tour stops, each of which illustrate the main interpretive theme.
4. Use interpretive communications structure for each stop (provoke, relate and reveal).
5. Use the techniques of tangibles and intangibles in their presentation.
6. Encourage the use of multiple senses to relate to visitors.
7. Have a provocative introduction and then ending conclusion summary for the tour.
8. Have as much "inspiration" as "information".
9. Leave the visitors asking for more (when's your next tour?).

September 6 to October 1, 2021
Instructor: Sarah Kapellusch
Every museum has a few stray items. Some lost tags long ago. Others turn up as surprises during inventories. A few are all that remain from long-ago exhibits. While you'll want to keep some, others may be deteriorating. Even worse, some pose significant hazards for staff and the rest of the collection. All raise legal and professional questions. How do you deal with objects that have no records? Or loans from unidentified or deceased lenders? Found in the Collection addresses how to identify abandoned objects and old loans. It further covers the application of state laws and rules for identifying owners or establishing ownership.
Covid-19 Resources

Many organizations have put together information on resources for Museums and Covid-19. Here are a few links to those Resources. Check back with these organizations for updates.

Use the drop-down menu in the upper right to find Webinars, Virtual tours and more

Conferences and Meetings
Double check each organization's website for more information. Some may still be going virtual this year due to continued safety concerns over Covid 19.
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, Virtual
June 7-11, 2021
Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, Archbold, OH
June 11-14, 2021

Association of Midwest Museums, Milwaukee, WI
July 2021

Society of American Archivists, Anaheim, CA
July 31 - August 7, 2021

Oklahoma Museums Association, Shawnee, OK
September 15-17, 2021

American Association of State and Local History, Little Rock, AR
September 22-25, 2021    Virtual and Live

Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Sioux Falls, SD
October 5-8, 2021

International Foundation for cultural Property Protection, Virtual
October 13-15; 18-19, 2021

Southeastern Museums Conference, Chattanooga, TN
October 25 - 27, 2021

New England Museum Association, Newport, RI
November 17-19, 2021
National Association for Interpretation, Palm Springs, CA
November 3-December 4, 2021

Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, Wilmington, DE
October 14-16-2021

American Alliance of Museums, Boston MA
May 19-22, 2022

Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, Tacoma, WA
June 23-28, 2022

Society of American Archivists, Boston, MA
August 20-27, 2022

Oklahoma Museums Association, Enid, OK
September 14-16, 2022

National Association for Interpretation, Cleveland, OH
November 29-Decemver 3, 2022

American Alliance of Museums, Denver, CO
May 19-22, 2023

Society of American Archivists, Washington, DC
July 22-29, 2023
Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter: 
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 
Have a comment or suggestion?  
Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager