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Professional ethics and practice in archives and records management in a human rights context

 Author: Michael Cook  Category: Compliance, Ethics, Records Management  Publisher: Journal of the Society of Archivists, 27:1, 1-15, DOI  Published: 2007  Pages: 15

This article contains a survey of ethical codes adopted by the Archives and Records Management (ARM) professional associations in Anglophone areas in the 1990s and notes that such codes are in effect standards to set beside other standards. The Museums Association code of ethics is compared, because it is aimed at institutions and not at individual professionals. It can be observed that institutional aims contain a strong ethical component. This is backed by procedural standards and guidelines required by new legislation in the UK (notably Freedom of Information and Data Protection). ARM professionals are faced with growing tensions in the interfaces between them and creators of records, owners of records, users and data subjects. Ethical decisions are constantly being demanded in all these areas. There is then a review of ARM responses to the human rights movement internationally, ranging from the ethical code proposed by the Quintana Report (1997), through subsequent discussions at CITRA, the Vienna Congress of the International Council on Archives (2004) and the University of Liverpool conference on archives and political pressures (2003). The article concludes by proposing that codes of ethics should be extended to direct the work of institutions as well as of individuals, that ethical principles embedded in procedural standards and guidelines should be recognised and codified, and that human rights issues should be explicitly recognised in ARM services through mission and policy statements.