GHM Updates Code of Ethics

Ethical codes evolve in response to changing conditions, values and ideas. A professional code of ethics must, therefore, be periodically updated. It must also rest upon widely shared values. Although the operating environment of museums grows more complex each year, the root value for museums, the tie that connects all of us together despite our diversity, is the commitment to serving people, both present and future generations.

The Geneva History Museum Board of Directors reviews policies regularly and recently revised its Institutional Code of Ethics, one of the core documents of the American Alliance of Museum’s national accreditation. It includes accountability, conflict of interest, duty to disclose, management, historical resources, access, and interpretation which apply to all staff, volunteers and anyone who works on behalf of GHM.

GHM Institutional Code of Ethics (revised and approved by the GHM Board of Directors, February 27, 2024)

The Geneva History Museum (GHM) is an independent nonprofit organization operated by the Geneva Historical Society.  GHM takes seriously its responsibilities to preserve and make available to the public the documentary, artifactual, artistic, scientific and architectural resources of the city, and to promote and support the stewardship of such resources held by others.  GHM is committed to making its resources widely accessible to the public, balanced with the need to preserve those resources for future generations.

GHM is headed by a Board of Directors voted into office by the general membership or the Board of Directors. Their primary responsibilities are to protect and promote GHM, as well as the human, physical and financial resources made available for that purpose. GHM has a professional, paid staff assisted by volunteers.  This Code of Ethics applies to all who work for or on the behalf of GHM.


  • Maintaining the public’s trust in GHM requires that its actions and activities are conducted in accordance with applicable Illinois and federal law policies and procedures.
  • GHM is required to meet the same standard and adopt their own code of ethics as required under federal law.
  • All resources will be used in an effective and efficient manner to achieve results that further GHM’s mission, and will be conducted in accordance with all applicable policies and procedures.  GHM will maintain accurate and appropriate financial records in keeping with legal and tax requirements, and principles of sound fiscal management.
  • GHM policies and policy decisions are clearly communicated to employees and volunteers (where appropriate).
  • GHM Board of Directors fulfill their role by providing policy for GHM employees to carry out in a manner that promotes clear and responsible decision making.
  • No activities will be undertaken that violate or compromise the integrity of GHM’s mission, the ability of GHM or individuals to meet professional standards, or GHM’s not-for-profit or tax exempt status.

Individual Conflict of Interest

  • Board of Directors, staff and volunteers will refrain from activities which create the appearance or reality of a conflict of interest between GHM’s public trust responsibilities and their individual, political or business interests.  Possible conflicts of interest will be dealt with openly and resolved in favor of the public trust responsibilities of GHM.
  • Board of Directors, staff and volunteers should not engage in any activity that is or appears to be in conflict with GHM’s authority to collect historical, architectural and artistic artifacts, records, papers, and historical documentation that are associated with Geneva’s history and heritage.
  • Board of Directors, staff and volunteers should not engage in activities that place them in competition with GHM’s mission.
  • Board of Directors, staff and volunteers should not use their position with GHM to influence others for private benefit, or to profit from information regarding collections or privileged access to or control of historic resources.
  • Board of Directors shall avoid expenditures for which they seek reimbursement on behalf of GHM. Reasonable expenses are defined as included in the GHM budget or approved by the GHM Executive Director.
  • Members of the Board of Directors shall not be related by blood, marriage or outside business co-ownership to any other Board Member, nor any compensated employee shall be qualified for membership on the Board of Directors. Immediate family members, grandparents, spouses, or siblings are considered related by blood. Members of the Board of Directors shall not co-own a business with another Board Member.

Duty to Disclose

  • In connection with any actual or possible conflict of interest, the Board of Directors, staff and volunteers must disclose the existence of any personal interest, and disclose all relevant information.  The Board of Directors will decide whether there is or appears to be a conflict of interest for individual Board Members.  The Executive Director will make such a determination for employees and volunteers.


  • GHM will foster a collegial and creative institutional culture that encourages and celebrates excellence, collaboration, productivity and public service.  Working relationships will be based on equity and mutual respect for the separate responsibilities of appointees, officials, employees and volunteers.
  • Involvement of partner organizations and agencies in planning of projects (e.g. exhibitions, publications, or programs) is appropriate but GHM will not delegate, abrogate or influence control of a product in order to obtain financial support or personal advantage.

Historical Resources

  • Collections in GHM’s custody support its mission and public trust responsibilities.  GHM’s Collections Management Policy defines appropriate scopes of collecting.
  • GHM has developed and adheres to established policies and procedures for accepting donations or transfers to the collections; acquiring items for the collection through purchase; obtaining loans for specific purposes; accessioning and cataloging collections; and documenting loans in and out.  Professional agendas for storing, exhibiting, conserving and documenting the physical condition of collections should guide operations and planning.
  • GHM does not capitalize its collections or treat them as financial assets.
  • Deaccessioning of collections is accomplished in accordance with established policies.  The use of any proceeds from deaccessioned collections will be restricted to new acquisitions or direct care of GHM collections.
  • GHM will acquire, care for and interpret historical resources with sensitivity to their cultural context and origins.  Documentation of collections will be as thorough as possible regarding their historical use, context and provenance.
  • Personal beliefs should not impact professional judgement in evaluation, acquisition or processing of historic resources.


  • GHM provides access to historical resources through public programs, services, exhibitions, publications, tours, email and online.  Limitations on access (e.g. operating hours, fees and use) are governed by institutional policies that are applied without regard to race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability.
  • GHM recognizes that research is an important aspect of public access to its collections.  To the greatest extent possible, GHM works to provide intellectual and physical access to its collections.  Appropriate polices and procedures ensure that collections are protected and preserved, and that access is provided on an equitable basis without discrimination.
  • Restrictions may be placed on collections access for the purpose of preservation, safety, confidentiality, privacy, or in accord with donor-imposed restriction.


  • Interpretation and publications reflect scholarship and thorough research.  Inclusion of appropriate scholars in program, exhibition and interpretive planning is actively encouraged by GHM.
  • GHM programs and exhibitions reflect the cultural and historical context of the subject matter and recognize the potential for multiple interpretations.  Discussion and debate of historical interpretation is encouraged and supported.
  • Consumptive use of collections as part of programs, interpretation or exhibitions will be carefully considered and will involve only collections designated “for-use” in accordance with the GHM Collections Management Policy.