international committee for the collections and activities of museums of cities

ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums

The cornerstone of ICOM is its ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. It sets minimum standards of professional practice and performance for museums and their staff. In joining the organisation, ICOM members undertake to abide by this Code.


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Edited by Jenny Chiu, Japan, Andrea Delaplace, France.  


Links to other organisations

In addition, we have links to organisations which are relevant to what we do, from UN Habitat to UNESCO's  World Heritage Centre.  They are listed under Resources. 


Some themes 

All these themes below are central to life in cities and give meaning to our work as a committee. They are themes for our conferences and meetings, and are discussed and debated in our CAMOC Review. 



Sustainable - a word that seems to have lost all meaning. It should not, but what intelligent statement a museum about a city can make about global warming and sustainable development?

We can't stand by: Sustainable Cities and Communities are Goal 11 in the UN's Sustainable Development programme.

To quote from the programme: "Common urban challenges include congestion, lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing,declining infrastructure and rising air pollution within cities."

Lisbon won the 2020 European Green Capital award and has received European Union funding for environmental initiatives.  Tirana has gained the European Union Prize for Urban Public Space.Helsinki is trying out zero emission driverless buses.  

Curitiba in Brazil, Bogota: the list of cities involved in getting greener is growing. How can a museum about a city play its part?  Have a look at this link.Curitiba in Brazil, Bogota: the list of cities involved in getting greener is growing. How can a museum about a city play its part?  Have a look at this link.

At the very least a museum can trace the development of its city over the years from the horse to the car and on to the future, and draw some lessons.

Above all, it can be a centre of debate and discussion about the city as it is now and as it could be. It's a challenge, but one worth facing.



James Joyce in Dublin - the great flâneur, the stroller, the observer of life on the streets in his native city and later in Trieste and Paris.  

Of course, he is hardly the only one - world literature is full of flâneurs.  You are the flâneur, or the flâneuse? So, you walk along a back street or an alleyway, you observe, you take note, you reflect on city life around you. You wonder about that building, that street corner.   What does that man or woman over there do for a living? James Joyce wrote Ulysses out of it all.

Then there's the vitality and variety of street life. It confirms the city as our greatest artefact.  

Vitality and variety now in 2020 with cities ravaged by Coronovirus?  Why not? Life somehow goes on.  So does creativity and inspired reactions to the pandemic.




In Tongli, China.

Tongli is one of the old silk towns in the Yangtze basin.  The silk industry declined and so did the town.  One of our keynote speakers at our Shanghai conference was Professor Ruan Yisan who is dedicated to recording and safeguarding Chinese historic towns and cities. He was responsible for bringing Tongli back to life and giving it a new purpose as a thriving tourist centre and saving its ancient water system.  

City museums are witness to cities as they develop and change: their past, their present and their future prospects.




The past was the future once.

If we were condemned to live without memory, we would be living in an endless present with no trace of the past.  Life would be unbearable.

There has hardly been a conference where we have not discussed memory, the city's past, in one form or another: tracing the development of our city in the city museum; ways of interpreting the past; the connections between the city's past, present and future; the delights and dangers of nostalgia; and the theme for our conference in Mexico City: contested histories, or to put it another way - you tell me your truth and I'll tell you mine. 




The museum without walls is our recurring theme. How do we get local people, our  citizens, involved in our museum?  They are, after all, our main artefact.  

There are so many possibilities: the city museum as a centre for debate and discussion about the city; the museum as a meeting point for politicians and citizens to discuss city problems from drugs to traffic congestion or pollution; the museum as a home for migrants where they can share memories; the active museum helping migrants integrate with local society.  

It helps to get people involved in shaping the future of their city.



Can the museum act as an agent for change? Will it be compromised if it does?  That is one of the debates in our committee.



Urban decay. Banksy's response 



Protesting the killing of journalists in Paris

Courtesy Atelier Populaire and Philippe Vermes


Je me révolte, donc je suis. Albert Camus



A street in Seoul


Vladimir Tolstoy reading from his great-great grandfather's work at our conference in Rio

Cities make for great writing: from Tolstoy to Orhan Pamuk. The city seen through another eye. Perhaps it is the poets and novelists, rather than the textbooks, who give us the sharpest insights on city living.  

At our conference in Rio we joined ICLCM,ICOM's international committee for literary museums to reflect on the tension between fictional and factual interpretations of the city. We had readings by our colleagues from texts about the city. Layla Betti read from Pier Paulo Pasolini on Rome:"I always tell everyone.that Rome is the most beautiful city in the world..But would Rome be the most beautiful.if it were not at the same time the ugliest? "  











Seoul 2008


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