Moral challenges for museum professionals
More and more museums are working as dynamic actors for social change, often by drawing attention to sensitive, taboo-laden subjects. The work normally includes co-operation with groups of people from the local society or individuals who contributes with personal narratives. Presenting difficult issues may evoke strong reactions among visitors and the general public, and it is highly important to take this into account at any step of a museums project.
The working process is in many ways demanding for museum employees. It often means meeting and touching people at a deep emotional level, including being touched oneself, and this makes it essential to find the right tools. Many museum employees still feel a great deal of uncertainty how to proceed and how to handle moral challenges which normally arise at several levels, and this uncertainty could cause major stress. In recent years, my research has dealt with the following: What are the moral challenges employees at a museum of cultural history faces in dealing with sensitive, contemporary-related exhibitions that involve external collaboration, how are they handled and how should they be handled? My starting point is thus the museums employees and the framework in which they work, and the needs that become visible during the specific projects.
At the conference, I will draw attention to some fundamental aspects of working with difficult issues, and present a short overview how they have been handled by museum professionals in different projects and countries over the last fifteen years or so. I also give a short introduction how they should be handled taking ethical theories in consideration.
Kathrin Pabst (1971) is a German ethnologist with a ph.D.in professional ethics. Her working experience includes practical and theoretical sides of working with difficult issues, and she shares results through publications, lectures and workshops. She is also a member of the Norwegian ICOM board.
k.pabst[at]vestagdermuseet.no / www.vestagdermuseet.no