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The William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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Spurlock Museum Guidelines for Professional Practices

Spurlock Museum Guidelines for Professional Practices


The Spurlock Museum's collections, programs, and facilities are a public trust.  All persons associated with the Museum must always recognize this principle, especially persons having important responsibilities in formulating or administering policies and procedures governing the Museum.  Persons holding such responsibilities have a duty and obligation to preserve and protect this public trust.  It is understood that this duty may entail the voluntary surrender of certain rights to personal privacy and economic activity; it is the goal of these Guidelines for Professional Practices to preserve the public trust with the least possible sacrifice of personal rights.  Those individuals affected are Directors, Board members, employees, volunteers, and others who may serve on various committees or otherwise be associated in an official capacity with the Museum from time to time.

These principles have been developed to comply with the following professional standards: Policy on Conflicts of Commitment and Interest (University of Illinois), Museum Ethics (The American Association of Museums) and Code of Professional Ethics (International Council of Museums).

General Principles

All persons associated with the Spurlock Museum are entitled to engage in the full range of personal and professional activities of their choice, limited by the restraints imposed in the Guidelines for Professional Practices and the following principles:

Guidelines for General Principles

  • They shall fully and conscientiously fulfill the duties of their positions in the Museum;
  • They shall avoid conflict of interest;
  • They shall not misuse the Museum's name, reputation, property, or services, nor shall they compromise its good will in the community.

General Management Policy

Personnel Practices and Equal Opportunity

The employment practices of the Spurlock Museum are bound by and follow the policies set in the University of IllinoisPersonnel and Equal Opportunity Practices.


Volunteers play an important role in the Spurlock Museum.  It is incumbent on the paid staff to be supportive of volunteers, receive them as fellow workers, and willingly provide them with appropriate training and opportunity for intellectual enrichment.

Volunteers have a responsibility to the Museum, as well, especially with access to the Museum's collections, programs, and privileged information.  Access to the Museum's inner activities is a privilege and the lack of material compensation for effort expended on behalf of the Museum in no way frees the volunteer from adherence to the standards that apply to paid staff.  Volunteers must work toward the betterment of the institution and not for personal gain other than the natural gratification and enrichment inherent in Museum participation.  Specific information concerning the Museum and its volunteers can be found in the Spurlock Museum Volunteer Handbook.

Interpersonal Relationships

Professional museum workers must always be dedicated to the high standards and discipline of their profession, but they must also remain mindful that they are employees as well as independent experts.  While they must strive for professional excellence in their own specialty, they must at the same time remember that they are part of a team effort and must cooperatesupportively with their colleagues.

Institutional Cooperation

The Museum encourages opportunities for cooperative action with other campus units, local museums, and national and international institutions to further its mission in accordance with all Museum policies.

Use of Museum Property and Services

No person may use the Museum's collections, facilities, personnel, services, resources, or documents and/or records for personal for-profit use or in any manner that compromises the integrity of the Museum.

The Board-Director-Dean/Provost Relationship

The Museum Director reports to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and the University Provost.  The Spurlock Museum Board works in an advisory capacity to the Museum.  Museum Board members are also to be guided by the General Principles stated in these Guidelines.

The Collection

Stewardship of collections entails the highest public trust and carries with it the presumption of rightful ownership, permanence, care, documentation, and accessibility.  Acquisition and disposal of any objects from the Artifact, Documentary Multimedia, Teaching Collection, Props and Furnishings or Library Collections shall be performed according to the procedures outlined in the Spurlock Museum Collections Management Policy.  The guiding principles for the management, maintenance, and conservation of the Museum's collections are stated in the Spurlock Museum Collections and Registration Section Mission statements.


Museum staff will provide the same degree of professional and ethical care and stewardship towards artifacts on loan from other individuals or institutions as it does for its own collections.

Commercial Use

In arranging for the manufacture and sale of replicas, reproductions, or other commercial items adapted from an object in the Museum's collections, all aspects must be carried out in a manner that will neither discredit the integrity of the Museum nor trivialize or damage the original object.  With regard to the question of reproduction of works of art, awareness of the nature and relative importance of replicas and reproductions is a central issue.  Therefore, great care must be taken to identify such objects for what they are in a manner that will be permanent and to ensure the accuracy and high quality of their manufacture. 

The Spurlock Museum is an educational institution holding the objects in its collections in its care as a public trust.  As such, the Museum cannot loan or lend objects for commercial purposes.

The display of brand name objects in Museum exhibits does not constitute an endorsement of that product.  The acquisition or display of any Museum object shall not be influenced by commercial support.

Availability of Collections

The Museum assumes as a primary responsibility the safeguarding of its collections.  The Museum also recognizes that the public must have reasonable access to the display collections on a nondiscriminatory basis and makes them available to the general public within regularly maintained and publicized hours of opening. Non-display collections will be made available for the active scholarly pursuits of staff members and scholars according to the Spurlock Museum Collections Management Policy.

Truth in Presentation

It is the responsibility of Museum professionals to present the best current information about the objects the Museum displays.  This forms a part of the primary charge of the Museum.  Therefore, intellectual honesty and objectivity in the presentation of objects is the duty of every Museum professional.


The Spurlock Museum serves the public by advancing an understanding and appreciation of its collections and their cultural context.  Exhibitions, research, publications, educational programs, public events, and other activities must further advance the institution's mission and be responsive to the concerns, interests, and needs of the Museum's audiences.

The Spurlock Museum is committed to ensuring the following principles:

  1. Programs are intellectually responsible, founded on scholarship, and consistent with current knowledge.
  2. Programs are accessible and encourage participation of the widest possible audience consistent with our mission and resources.
  3. Programs respect the cultural diversity, pluralistic values, traditions, and concerns of the cultures presented and the audiences served.
  4. Revenue-producing activities and those that involve relationships with outside organizations are compatible with the mission of the Museum and support its public trust responsibilities.
  5. Programs promote the public good rather than individual financial gain.

Human Remains and Sacred Objects

The care of human remains and sacred objects is in compliance with the Spurlock Museum Collection Management Policy and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Public Law 101-601; 25 U.S.C. 3001-13; 104 Stat. 3042 and all other relevant federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

The Staff

Conflict of Interest

Museum employees will not abuse their official positions or their contacts within the museum community, impair in any way the performance of their official duties, compete with their institutions, or bring discredit or embarrassment to any museum or to the profession in any activity, museum-related or not. They will be prepared to accept as conditions of employment the restrictions that are necessary to maintain public confidence in museums and in the museum profession.

Business Dealings

Museum staff will act ethically and professionally in all business dealings and in accordance with University of Illinois policies regarding ethics and business dealings.

Use of Museum's Name

The name and reputation of the Museum will not be exploited for personal advantage or for the advantage of another person or entity.  Every staff member is entitled to personal and professional independence not in conflict with his or her staff responsibilities.  However, employees must be aware that in the eye of the public the private business or professional interests of an employee cannot be divorced entirely from the interests of the Spurlock Museum.

Service on Boards and Commission

Occasionally, employees may be asked to serve in a professional capacity on boards or commissions.  To eliminate conflicts of interest or the appearance of potential conflicts, such service will be reported in writing to the Director.  Such service is to be performed on the employee's personal time except as authorized in writing by the Director and without compensation.  Employees may serve on boards so long as the activity does not impair the employee's ability to act with total objectivity regarding the Museum's interest nor interfere with job performance.


Staff members must respect the confidentiality of any inside information such as names of donors or lenders who are requesting anonymity, names of potential donors, values of artifacts in the Museum's collections, storage locations of artifacts, location of storage areas within the building, and Museum security systems to which their Museum activities give them access.

Personal Collecting

The acquisition, maintenance, and management of a personal collection by a Museum staff member, though not unethical, can create ethical questions. To avoid any question of conflict of interest, the Museum has created the following policies on personal collecting.

Museum staff and their immediate families may not acquire de-accessioned Museum objects.

Museum collections cannot be used in an employee's home or for other personal purposes.  Employees may not store personal collections on Museum property or research their personal collections on Museum time.  Objects of insignificant monetary value may be brought in to the Museum by Education staff at their own risk and only for purposes of educational programs.  Such objects must be identified and tracked by Education staff and will not at any time become distributed among or stored with the Teaching Collection objects. 

No Museum employee may use Museum affiliation to promote personal collecting activities.

No Museum employee may participate in any for-profit dealing of objects similar or related to the objects collected by the Museum.

No Museum employee may compete with the Museum in any personal collecting activity.  As a museum of world cultures, the Spurlock Museum holds a wide variety of cultural materials from around the world and over several centuries. Thus, it is nearly impossible to limit personal collecting to objects unrelated to the Museum's collections. Any individual item acquired by an employee that is related to the Museum's collections and purchased in excess of $500 must be reported to the Director within 90 days of acquisition. The Museum has the right to acquire any object so reported, at the price paid by the staff member.  The object in question will be brought forth at the next meeting of the Museum's Acquisition Committee, and the question of acquisition will be settled within two months of notification.  If the staff member originally purchasing or collecting the object is a member of the Acquisition Committee, she/he will excuse himself/herself from all discussion and voting pertaining to the object

The Museum's right to purchase personally collected objects does not extend to objects acquired prior to the staff member's employment at the Museum or prior to the institution of this policy. This policy also excludes the purchase of books and materials that are readily available on the open market.  Likewise, genuine personal gifts or inheritances an employee receives are exempt from the above disclosure and right-to-acquire rules.

Outside Employment and Consulting

With the exception of outside curators and volunteer staff, the Museum staff member's primary responsibility is to his or her institution. Under this premise, an employee may undertake outside activities (remuneration may be monetary or otherwise, direct or indirect), provided the following restrictions are met:

Requirements for Allowable Outside Employment
  1. The activity will not present a conflict of commitment for the employee.  (Refer to the UI policies on conflict of commitment for further clarification.)
  2. The activity will not compromise the professional integrity of the employee or the reputation of the Museum.
  3. Activities that are in any way related to the functions a paid staff member performs for the Museum must be reported, in writing, to the Director. Volunteers must report related activities to the Volunteer Coordinator, who will provide these to the Director if questions arise.  Staff members who complete annual UI Conflict of Interest forms can consider this their Director notification. Disclosure is not required for small businesses or similar activities that are entirely unrelated to the work an individual carries out for the Museum.
  4. The Museum's name and the employee's connection with the institution will be sparingly and respectfully used in connection with outside activities in accordance with University of Illinois policies.
  5. Disclosure is not required for an employee's activities on behalf of voluntary community groups or other charitable organizations; except for those organizations (such as other museums) where it would appear the employee is acting in his/her official capacity. An employee's conduct while pursuing such activities will not reflect adversely on the reputation or integrity of the Museum.


No Museum employee shall perform appraisals or recommend specific appraisers.  The exceptions to this principle are appraisals for internal use (e.g., insurance evaluations for loans) of the Museum, or, with written permission of the Director, for other non-profit organizations for similar purposes.  Any such appraisal must represent an honest and objective judgment and must indicate how the judgment was reached.

Gifts, Favors, Discounts and Dispensations

Museum employees and their immediate families may not accept favors, gifts, loans, or other dispensations of things of value that are available to them in connection with their duties for the Museum.

Type of Unacceptable gifts
  1. Gifts include discounts on personal purchases from suppliers that sell items or furnish services to the Museum, except where such discounts are regularly offered to the general public. Gifts also include advantageous arrangements for the Museum employee or another person or entity.
  2. Employees may retain gifts of trifling value when acceptance would not appear to impair judgment or otherwise influence decisions. Meals, accommodations and travel may be accepted while on official business if clearly in the interest of the Museum.
  3. It is recognized that gifts may originate from individuals who have a potentially beneficial relationship with the Museum. In such cases the staff member is advised to protect both him/herself and his institution by fully disclosing the circumstances to the Museum Director.

Museum employees are also subject to the policies as stated in the University of Illinois Gift Ban Policy as listed in the Business and Financial Policies and Procedures, see http://ethics.uillinois.edu/policies/empgift.html. (external link)

Teaching, Lecturing, Writing and Other Creative Activities

Museum staff members are encouraged to teach, lecture, and write, outside of their assigned Museum duties as activities that aid professional development. The Museum is prepared to facilitate such activities so long as the activity does not interfere with the employee’s ability to carry out regular duties and employees do not take advantage of their position for personal monetary gain or appear to compromise the integrity of the Museum in accordance with State law and University regulations as outlined in the University of Illinois Policy on Conflicts of Commitment and Interest.

Field Study and Collecting

All field studies must be carried out in a legal and responsible manner.  Participants must honor the beliefs and customs of host individuals and societies and fulfill all University obligations for research, including submission to the University Research Board and adherence to University of Illinois Policy and Procedures on Academic Integrity in Research and Publication (see http://www.research.illinois.edu/ai/index.asp (external link)), Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest (see http://www.research.illinois.edu/coi/index.asp (external link)), and The Institutional Review Board’s Human Subjects Research Policy (see http://www.irb.illinois.edu/regpol/illinois.asp (external link)). Before study and collecting begin, a statement of the nature of the objects to be collected, the purposes they will serve, and their final disposition must be prepared, and this report must be fully understood by any affected parties.  Material will not be acquired that cannot be properly cared for and used.  A full and prompt reporting of the activity will be made to all appropriate parties at the completion of field work.

Ownership of Scholarly Materials

The guiding principles for the copyrighting of materials shall be Section II-17 of the University of Illinois Campus Administrative Manual, Copyright and Recording.

Political Activities

The Spurlock Museum recognizes that Museum staff have the same personal interests in the decisions and policies of government as do other citizens and that employees retain these rights as individuals to interests of a personal, political, or economic nature.  However, because the University receives considerable state funding, employees must be careful to keep any such activities separate from work and kept on a strictly individual basis.

Listed below are some general principles for permissible political activities provided they are done as an individual and not on behalf of the Spurlock Museum.

Permissible Political Activities
  1. Making voluntary contributions for political reasons.
  2. Expressing opinions as an individual privately and publicly on political subjects and candidates.
  3. Joining a political party and participating in party affairs.
  4. Campaigning provided it is not done on Spurlock Museum property.

Listed below are examples of activities that are not permissible:

Not Permissible Political Activities
  1. Using Spurlock Museum property, materials, supplies, time, or equipment in connection with partisan political activity.
  2. While on official duty, engaging in any form of political activity as an individual and not on behalf of the Spurlock Museum.

The above lists of permissible and non-permissible activities are only intended to show examples and serve as a guideline for employees who wish to be active in political causes.  It is by no means all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be.  Employees are encouraged to talk with their supervisors about any activities that may be in question.

Public Expression of Personal Opinion

Spurlock Museum staff may feel inclined to express opinions of a personal, religious, or political nature to people outside the Museum.  Occasionally these opinions may be expressed on behalf of other organizations to which the employee belongs.  The guidelines below will be followed.

Personal Opinion
  1. It will be clearly expressed that the opinions stated are independent or personal in nature and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the Spurlock Museum.
  2. If the opinions are in writing, they must not be on Spurlock Museum letterhead.
  3. Preparation of the statements must be on the employee’s own time, equipment, and materials.

Discretion and the utmost attention to professional ethics will govern these activities.

Any questions or complaints concerning this policy may be addressed to the Museum Director for clarification or judgment.

Affirmation Form

Guidelines for Professional Practices

I have read the Guidelines for Professional Practices of the Spurlock Museum in its entirety and hereby affirm that I understand its contents and will adhere to its guidelines.
Name (printed)

Volunteer Affirmation Form

Guidelines for Professional Practices
Spurlock Museum

I wish to now affirm the following in my relationship to the Museum as a volunteer:

  • I am not and have no future plans to become involved in the dealing of objects similar to or related to the objects collected by the Spurlock Museum.
  • Should I become involved in the dealing of objects at a future date, I will notify the Volunteer Coordinator in writing within 15 days.

Name (printed)

Notification of Acquisition

No employee may compete with the Museum in any personal collecting activity. Any individual item acquired by an employee that is related to the Museum's collections and purchased in excess of $500 must be reported to the Director within 90 days of acquisition.

The Museum's right to purchase personally collected objects does not extend to objects acquired prior to staff member's employment at Museum or prior to the institution of this policy. This policy also excludes the purchase of books and materials that are readily available on the open market. Likewise, genuine personal gifts or inheritances an employee receives are exempt from the above disclosure and right-to-acquire rules.

Today's Date _____________________________

Name of Employee __________________________________________

Description of Item Acquired ________________________________



Price of Item Acquired_______________________________________

Signature of Employee ______________________________________

The Museum has the right to acquire any object so reported, at the price paid by the staff member. The object in question will be brought forth at the next meeting of the Museum's Acquisition Committee, and the question of acquisition will be settled within two months of notification.

Final decision   (Circle one)

Acquisition of object by the Museum                        Retention of object by employee

Decision Date ___________________________

Signature of Director _________________________________________

Section Heads (4 of 6 signatures required for approval):

_____________________________       ___________

Business Manager                               Date

_____________________________       ___________

Collections Manager                           Date

_____________________________       ___________

Director of Education                          Date

_____________________________       ___________

Director of Information Technology    Date

_____________________________       ___________

Head of Security                                  Date

_____________________________       ___________

Registrar                                              Date

Director (required for approval): 

            _____________________________      ___________

            Director, Spurlock Museum               Date

Dean (required for approval):

            _____________________________       ___________

            Dean                                                  Date           

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences