Most visitors of museums believe that the management of the collection occurs unconsciously, chaotically, or prone to fashion. Nevertheless, this opinion is incorrect because the museum workers spend much time to formulate a strategy and methods for managing exhibitions on the territory of the institute. The curator is the most crucial figure in the process of this development. In this regard, he/she faces various dilemmas in the areas of research, interpretation, expansion, accessibility, and involvement that must be addressed through a single code of ethics based on critical thinking and analysis.
To determine ethical boundaries for professionals in the field of supervision, it is essential to understand what practices and responsibilities they should apply and perform during their work activities as they are the basis of ethical issues. First, the curator is obliged to support public goods and create necessary conditions for a dialogue between the public and art. Thus, the curator should influence the desire of visitors to become acquainted with art and provide opportunities for those wishing for such a professional conversation. Second, the curator is always part of an institution that provides services for the maintenance of various types of art. In this regard, one of the primary duties of curators is to maintain the financial stability of the organization in which they work. Furthermore, they are responsible for intellectual resources that the institute possesses which is their necessity to provide quality services. Moreover, the curator is directly connected with all museum professions, and as the museum project manager, he/she should respect colleagues and keep their status in the eyes of visitors to exhibitions. Therefore, the duties obligatory for the curator may involve various ethical problems which should be solved through understanding of values and requirements of the society.
Wherein, one of the most common stereotypes associated with the profession of the curator is that they have all the necessary knowledge and skills during their studies at the university. Thus, it gives them the right to stop the research process during the working practice. Nevertheless, the profession of the curator obliges a person to be responsible for describing and studying all objects of art that become part of the institute's collection. Thus, despite extensive knowledge, any curator can face a little studied and unusual object provided that art is continually being studied, and the methodology is changing. In this case, if the curator uses outdated data about the collection objects, he/she can misinform both employees of the institute and visitors. Consequently, two primary duties of the curator can be affected which violate the basics of the work of museum workers. First, respect for the museum staff will be lost on the part of visitors, as some of them may be aware of errors in the descriptions of museum exhibits. Second, honesty in fulfilling fundamental duties of drawing up a dialogue with people who want to get acquainted with the art will be violated. Thus, this ethical dilemma is resolved in favor of the constant training of the curator and his or her duty to conduct in-depth research throughout the entire working practice.
In addition, in the process of the curatorial activity, museum professionals are faced with the issue of interpreting museum objects for different groups of population. It is evident that the majority of art collections in the world are public domain that allows broad strata of society to gain access to art subjects and gain valuable experience. Nevertheless, many types of art require visitors to have eyesight, hearing, and other feelings that may not work correctly for people with disabilities. Therefore, the U.S. government has created the Disabilities Act that obliges museum workers to interpret all the necessary art objects for people who may have difficulties with perception. However, some curators may disregard this responsibility in favor of short audio or written descriptions that do not allow persons with disabilities to obtain the necessary information without the help of specialists. Nevertheless, the ethical code of the curator should be based on the desire and necessity to provide an opportunity for dialogue with the art for all population groups that may be interested in it. In this regard, the exhibition curator must conduct an honest and complete interpretation of all art objects using research and information that is accessible to visitors without disabilities.
Moreover, the process of replenishment and reduction of the collection disturbs many curators since this complex activity can be subject to ethical dilemmas. Concerning replenishment of the collection, some people state that curators accept any work of art as a gift and can choose to buy the items that are on the market. Nevertheless, when focusing on the main duties of the curator, it is obvious that this worker must involve visitors in the study of art objects in one or another context. Therefore, the ethical code should involve the rule that all items of the collection should be combined and should bear significant value for the study, as it can affect the productivity of the dialogue. The removal of objects from the collection should also be subject to both the interests of the museum and the value for the visitors of the exhibition. Thus, the curator must use deep analytical and research skills in order to critically evaluate all the objects in the collection and understand which ones have become not valuable for use and can be transferred or sold to another collection. Therefore, although the process of collecting and editing the collection can cause difficulties, ethics allow managing this activity.
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Regarding availability of the collection, this issue is also widely discussed in the curators' community as many of them face dilemmas on this basis. The bottom line is that the modern museum community supports the wide dissemination of art objects around the world which is evident from the number of unique collections that travel around the museums in different countries. At the same time, in spite of the importance of enlightening the population and the benefits that people who do not have an opportunity to visit the museum of another state can obtain, many collections are invaluable to the community, and their safety is important and necessary. Moreover, many objects are dilapidated which makes it necessary to restrict access to most of them. In this case, the curator's ethics should also be based on research skills and critical thinking as he/she must assess possible threats of the process of transferring this object to a temporary use of another museum. It encourages curators not only to find the most ethical decision but also to justify it for the public desiring to get acquainted with the exhibition. Thus, although the curator could have denied access to all the exhibition facilities, this unethical decision cannot be made without analyzing the data.
Finally, one of the most modern ethical issues which curators are facing is involving visitors in an exhibition. Earlier, museums exhibited classical art objects among which were paintings, statues, and other pieces of art. Such exhibitions did not require involvement of the viewer as the main model of behavior in the museum was lined up around contemplation of various types of art, their analysis, discussion, and other passive forms of response. Nevertheless, many exhibitions of contemporary art require an active involvement of the viewer in the exhibition space as modern currents show objects that change under the influence of human participation. At the same time, curators should keep the collection in the form that was conceived by the author of the subject of art in order not to spoil the process of dialogue between the visitor and the exhibition. In this regard, the curator cannot prohibit viewers from using the items of the collection but can create a team of exhibition managers to assist the guests in the process of understanding and interacting with pieces at the required level. Although the risk of losing the collection object is preserved, it decreases as the specialists allow the visitors to understand what level of interaction is needed between them and the objects that prolong the existence of the author's intention.
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In conclusion, curators are the primary managers of the exhibition as they are forced to solve ethical dilemmas in the fields of involving the occupants, interpreting the collection, researching objects, accessibility of the exchange, and expanding the composition. Wherein, most of these spheres can be subject to analysis and critical thinking that are the basis of the skills of the curators. Therefore, the most ethical and correct way to answer the central questions in working with museum exhibits is to evaluate every decision critically.