Bonnie Byrd

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Kara Vuic

Degree Award Date

Fall 2007


Museums, future, International Council for the Museum, Code of Ethics, dialogic practices


Museum Studies


This paper seeks to provide an evaluation of museological practices and how those practices will determine the future of the museum. Museums are first and foremost the protectors of cultural properties. Presently, museums serve as educative mediums that preserve cultural artifacts and display them for the current public. Visitors come to the museum to encounter the exhibitions housed there and also to engage the museum as an educative medium. Preservation of cultural artifacts preserves the tangible evidence of global history for future generations. However, future generations are not the sole audience for the museum of today. The publics of the present are the audiences that maintain a museum's vitality on a day-to-day basis. The combination of these two audiences provides the museum with its institutional goals. These goals are not mutually exclusive and together create a foundation for the museums of the future.

Recently the International Council for the Museum published the Code of Ethics for the Museum which addresses both the need to serve present communities and the need to preserve holdings well into the future. The Code of Ethics is not only an instructional guide but also states that museums hold cultural properties in the trust of humanity. The Code of Ethics represents a major achievement in international museum coordination and is a guideline for how museums can best fulfill their responsibilities of holding properties in such great trust. This examination of the Code of Ethics provides insight into what the international community has designated as the future of museums.

The future role that museums will have within the world is still being negotiated. Museums are evolving institutions, and their history plays an important part of any formulation of new mission. This history also serves as a warning as museums seek to fulfill their responsibilities to the international community. This paper argues that the concept of the dialogic museum is the means by which museums can incorporate the Code of Ethics and best serve its educative mission. The dialogic museum process asks that museums become more interactive bodies that respect varied interpretations and remove the Westernized set of museum behaviors. By accepting dialogic practices, museums will be able to affirm their places as adaptive and educative bodies that serve to protect the shared cultural properties of humanity.