Statement of Professional Standards and Ethics (2007)


American Association for State and Local History


Code of Ethics

Date Approved: 

October 24, 2007

Disclaimer: Please note the codes in our collection might not necessarily be the most recent versions. Please contact the individual organizations or their websites to verify if a more recent or updated code of ethics is available. CSEP does not hold copyright on any of the codes of ethics in our collection. Any permission to use the codes must be sought from the individual organizations directly.

Statement of Professional Standards and Ethics

The American Association for State and Local History is a membership organization comprised of individuals, agencies and organizations acting in the public trust, engaged in the practice of history and representing a variety of disciplines and professions. The Association expects its members to abide by the ethical and performance standards adopted by all appropriate discipline-based and professional organizations. The following ethical statements and related professional standards are provided for the guidance of all members of the Association.

Historical Resources

Historical Resources including Collections and other evidence of the past, provide the tools through which we interact with the past and are the bedrock upon which the practice of history rests. In fulfillment of their public trust, historical organizations and those associated with them must be responsible stewards of the collections within their direct care and are challenged to be advocates on behalf of the historical resources within their communities.

A. Association members shall give priority to the care and management of the collections within their care and always shall act to preserve their physical and intellectual integrity.

B. Institutions shall manage historical resources, including collections, in accord with comprehensive policies officially adopted by their governing authorities.

C. Collections shall not be capitalized or treated as financial assets.

D. Collections shall not be deaccessioned or disposed of in order to provide financial support for institutional operations, facilities maintenance or any reason other than preservation or acquisition of collections, as defined by institutional policy.

E. Historical resources shall be acquired, cared for and interpreted with sensitivity to their cultural origins.

F. It is important to document the physical condition of collections, including past treatment of objects, and to take appropriate steps to mitigate potential hazards to people and property.


Providing non-discriminatory access to historical resources through exhibitions, tours, educational programs, publications, electronic media and research is critical in fulfilling the public trust and mission of historical organizations. Access and limitations of access are governed by institutional policies and by applicable rights of privacy, ownership and intellectual freedom.


Historical interpretation may be presented in a variety of formats.

A. All interpretation must be based upon sound scholarship and thorough research.

B. Intellectually honest interpretation reflects the cultural context of the subject matter and recognizes the potential for multiple interpretations.

C. No interpretation shall use collections in a consumptive manner, except as categorically delineated and specifically allowed within the collection policy.


The primary responsibility for governance, institutional policies, financial stability and legal accountability of a historical organization rests with the governing authority. Operational responsibility rests with the staff, paid or volunteer.

A. Individuals employed in the practice of history deserve respect, pay and benefits commensurate with their training, dedication and contribution to society. Volunteers deserve the same consideration as their paid colleagues.

B. Institutions shall maintain personnel policies, adopted by the governing authority and distributed to all staff, documenting the terms of employment.

C. Institutions have the responsibility to engage personnel, including volunteers, who have appropriate training and expertise and to provide them with opportunities for additional training necessary to continue to meet their responsibilities.

D. If the governing authority employs an administrator, that person alone is responsible for the employment, discipline and release of all other staff, subject to established personnel policies.

E. Institutions shall maintain financial records from which accurate information can be generated to manage in a fiscally sound manner.

Revenue Producing Activities
Activities that involve the marketing and sale of products, programs, services, and facilities are acceptable ways to produce support revenues and increase public awareness of, and participation in, historical activities.

A. No such activities shall be undertaken that violate or compromise the integrity of an institution's mission, the ability of an institution or individual to meet professional standards or an institution's not-for-profit status.

B. Control of a product (e.g., exhibition, publication, program) shall neither be delegated nor abrogated to outside parties in order to obtain financial support.

C. Historical organizations shall review the potential cultural sensitivity of materials considered for commercial use with representatives of the appropriate affiliated communities.

Conflict of Interest
Historical organizations and agencies exist to serve the public interest and must always act in such a way as to maintain public confidence and trust.

A. All governing authority members, employees and volunteers shall be careful to avoid the appearance and the reality of using their positions or the information and access gained from their positions for personal gain or for the benefit of another organization. They must exercise discretion and maintain the confidential nature of proprietary information.

B. Board members, volunteers and employees shall refrain from personal collecting in any manner that conflicts with the interests or credibility of the institution and its policies. Institutions are encouraged to obtain statements of personal collecting interests before individuals become associated with them.

C. Collections shall not be made available to any individual on any basis for personal use, either on or off the premises or for any other purpose and contrary to the adopted collections policies.

D. Historical organizations and their representatives must protect the integrity of their institutions from both the reality and the appearance of undue influence by donors, sponsors and other sources of financial support.

Social Responsibility

Historical organizations and agencies shall act to ensure that the breadth of American cultural experiences and perspectives is represented accurately in all programmatic, staffing and operational activities. Historical organizations shall provide leadership to the field in becoming representative of our diverse society through equity in staffing, training, collecting, programming and marketing.

Intellectual Freedom
Historical scholarship and interpretation depend upon free and open exploration and interpretation of the human experience.

A. At the same time, historical institutions must respect other legal, ethical, and cultural standards regarding individual privacy, human-based research and access to and use of sensitive cultural materials.

B. Historical institutions and their representatives shall respect the rights and authority of individuals and cultures that had no voice in the disposition of those collections related to them.

1. A bibliography of ethical standards can be obtained from the AASLH executive offices.