The Ethics Committee of the International Council of Museums celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016. It was created shortly after the adoption of the first comprehensive Code of Ethics by the General Assembly of ICOM in 1986. Already in 1971 ICOM had adopted, in support of UNESCO’s 1970 Convention, the first elements of a code (two resolutions which could be considered as a forerunner of the more complete Code developed in the following decade). These two resolutions dealt only with acquisitions, documentation of collections and field missions, and were mainly focused on illicit trafficking and illegal aspects of the international trade in antiquities. Adopting guidelines for museums was considered necessary by ICOM to protect the standards and good standing of museum professionals – and to ensure that museums lent their support to UNESCO’s and other international efforts to protect the world’s endangered heritage. ICOM maintained that a museum should not simply be a store – as later emphasized in broadcasting ICOM’s new international standards statements in ICOM News:
Let us have no illusions. Museums cannot make themselves respected, and the museum profession cannot retain its dignity, unless those who are proud to be part of the latter agree to submit, voluntarily and spontaneously, to principles which are scientifically and morally sound.