[Approved by the Board of Trustees March 23, 2015]
The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee past and present, introduces new art and new ideas, educates and serves a diverse community, enhances Knoxville’s quality of life and economic development, and operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust.
The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) “celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee past and present, introduces new art and new ideas, educates and serves a diverse community, enhances Knoxville’s quality of life and economic development, and operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust.” The KMA strategic plan further states objectives to “reflect and help shape the region’s cultural identity and nurture its aspirations” and to “assume a leadership and support role among cultural organizations in the region.” The mission and goals can only be met if the museum maintains the highest level of ethics, best practices and legal requirements. Donors must be confident that their financial support will be used in furtherance of the museum's stated mission. Trustees, staff, and volunteers need to believe that their efforts on behalf of the museum are well spent. The issue of public trust demands that in all activities the KMA staff act with integrity and in accordance with the most stringent ethical principles, as well as the highest standards of objectivity.
The KMA is organized as a Tennessee nonprofit corporation. The museum complies with applicable local, state, and federal laws and international conventions, as well as the specific legal standards governing trust responsibilities. Legal requirements, however, provide only the minimum standards. The museum must act not only legally, but also ethically. The KMA understands its responsibility for the actions of each trustee, employee, and volunteer in the performance of museum-related duties. To this end it is required that each read and sign a commitment to uphold this Code of Ethics outlining ethical standards that meet and exceed the legal minimums. These individuals must be committed to conducting their activities in a professional manner in order to protect the interests of the museum’s beneficiaries—the public.
The guidelines contained in this code are designed to assist everyone in making the right choices when confronted with difficult situations. In such instances, this code requires that you not rely solely on your own judgment but instead discuss the matter in full with your supervisor if you are an employee, or, in appropriate circumstances, with the museum’s legal counsel. Full and timely disclosure of the facts in such instances is essential. It shall, of course, be the responsibility of all those having supervisory authority to assure consistent adherence to this code and any procedures developed pursuant to it, in letter and spirit, and, when appropriate, to obtain legal or other advice through normal channels.
At times, however, you may need to exercise your individual judgment in deciding on a correct course of action. As you contemplate a particular situation, consideration of the following factors may help you arrive at a satisfactory answer:
Remember always to use good judgment and common sense. This code is intended to reflect the collective good judgment and common sense of all of us. Whenever you see a situation where this purpose does not appear to be served by the code, you have the responsibility to bring your concern to the attention of the head of your department, the executive director or to the museum’s legal counsel.
Employees owe their first professional loyalty to the Knoxville Museum of Art and their primary energies to fulfilling the responsibilities of their museum employment. Trustees also owe a duty of loyalty to the KMA which requires that they act with undivided allegiance to the mission of the museum and without regard to personal interests. When and where conflicts of interest arise—actual, potential, or perceived, loyalty to the museum must never be compromised. No individual may use his or her position in the museum for personal gain or benefit at the expense of the museum, its missions, its reputation, and the public it serves. Any appearance of using the museum as a vehicle for self-promotion or financial gain will not be tolerated. Trustees and employees should never abuse their official positions or their contacts within the museum community or with the public. Trustees and employees should disclose and, where required, refrain from any activity which might conflict or appear to conflict, with the interests of the museum, and behavior that may cause embarrassment to the museum or compromise its integrity.
It is the responsibility of all trustees and employees to abide by the letter and spirit of all applicable laws, to familiarize themselves with Article 14, Conflict of Interest, of the KMA Bylaws, to comply with its requirements and, in appropriate cases, to assure that members of their families and friends are fully familiar with and do not violate the policy.
The Bylaws state that:
KMA trustees must annually complete and sign a form disclosing any direct or indirect conflict and/or potential conflict of interest with the City of Knoxville and/or Knox County and/or the State of Tennessee. This form is included in the appendix.
The KMA mission states that the museum “operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust.” The museum is responsible for the protection and enhancement of the museum’s collections and programs and its physical, human, and financial resources. All those who work for or on behalf of the Knoxville Museum of Art are committed to managing these resources in support of the mission as a whole with particular attention to the responsibility to the public. The strategic plan expands this mission to identify the museum’s desire to operate in a way that will “speak to a broad and diverse audience” and “reach out to underserved audiences.” Trustees are asked to oversee the actions and policies of the museum with a consistent regard for laws, professional standards and practices and a further eye to increasing the accessibility of museum offerings for people of all ethnicities and abilities.
The trustees are made aware of their responsibilities through new trustee orientation, ongoing training, and written materials. Additional responsibilities are listed in the KMA Trustee Expectations included in the appendix. Each trustee is required to sign a form stating that the trustee has read and agrees to comply with both the KMA Trustee Expectations and the Code of Ethics. These forms are kept on file in the office of the Director of Administration.
The Knoxville Museum of Art’s Collection Management Policy provides clear, concise standards pertaining to the museum collection and borrowed objects, according to accepted professional practices and codes of ethics. It is a compilation of written policies covering all aspects of acquisition, documentation, care, use, and disposal of the objects for which the KMA is permanently or temporarily guardian. The policy is available to the general public on the museum’s web site.
Objects will be accessioned only upon the recommendation of the curator and the executive director and the approval of the Collections and Exhibitions Committee (C&E) and BOT. Objects added to the museum collection will be formally accessioned with each object receiving a unique accession number per the numbering system described in Museum Registration Methods.
If possession of an object by the museum is found not to be legitimate, the object will be given to the legitimate owner as determined by the appropriate authority.
Gifts and Bequests: In general, the museum will not accept an offer of a group of objects unless the museum is free to reject any objects that do not meet museum standards for accession as set forth in the Collection Management Policy. Generally, restrictions on use or disposition of a proposed gift or bequest will not be accepted. Restricted gifts will be accepted for accession by the museum only by vote of approval of the Board of Trustees.
Purchases: In making a purchase, the museum will obtain a sales contract, warranty, or statement affirming that the seller has full title to pass to the museum. It should be determined that the work is unencumbered by a lien, or stolen, and that to the best of the dealer’s knowledge, the work is what it is represented to be (i.e., not a fake or forgery).
Exchanges: Exchanges will be initiated by the professional staff of the museum and approved in accordance with the provisions of the museum’s accession and deaccession policies. Objects considered for exchange are to be of equal aesthetic, scholarly, or monetary value. No exchanges will be made with private persons.
Deaccessions: Guidelines for removing items from the collection are given in the Collections Management Policy. When donors have used a gift in order to obtain a tax deduction, the museum will allow an appropriate waiting period before starting the deaccession process so as to protect the donor from possible IRS violations.
Objects removed from the museum collection may not be given to or sold to employees, officers, trustees of the museum, non-trustee committee members, officers of auxiliary museum groups (i.e. the Guild of the KMA), or to the family or representatives thereof. In general, no agent acting on behalf of the museum in the sale of deaccessioned objects will use the name of the museum to imply in any way that the value of such objects is supported or attested to by the museum. The museum may provide basic information about an object based on current curatorial opinion, but in no such case will it represent the value of an object. The name of the museum may not be used in any promotional material regarding the sale of deaccessioned objects without the approval of the executive director and the Chair of the Board of Trustees to form and content.
All proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned objects will be deposited in a restricted account designated as the “Acquisitions Fund.” Such funds will be used exclusively for the purchase of objects for the collection as prescribed by AAM’s Code of Ethics.
Loans: The museum will loan objects only for purposes of identification, research, education, exhibition, or for off-site conservation treatment. Loans to individuals will not be considered. A completed Standard Facilities Report must be presented for review before a loan will be approved. Objects are not loaned if there is an unreasonable risk to the objects or if the objects may be put to objectionable use that would reflect poorly upon the integrity of the objects or the museum.
Borrowing objects: Objects will be borrowed from other institutions or individuals only if their loan requirements can be met. In borrowing objects, the museum will comply with the UNESCO Convention and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The museum will not accept loans of objects for indefinite periods of time. The museum may accept long-term loans for a specified period of time, subject to renewal and annual review.
“Found” objects: As in many collections, the museum possesses objects that lack sufficient documentation to determine how (or if) they entered the museum collection. The objects should be identified, as much as possible, and labeled by the registrar to avoid confusion. The museum recognizes the possibility that the object may be claimed by the rightful owner at a later date and will return the object if adequate proof of ownership is given. Found objects may be disposed of only with the same approval process used in deaccessioning and with the advice of the museum’s legal counsel.
Insurance: The museum will ensure that objects in the museum collection are insured while on and off the premises of the museum including objects that are part of a traveling exhibition. The museum will insure objects borrowed from other institutions or individuals for exhibition or research purposes in accordance with the provisions of the written incoming loan agreement.
Appraisals and authentication: Appraisals may not be given by any staff member to anyone outside the museum because of the possibility of an appearance of or actual conflict of interest. The staff may assist by identifying outside qualified appraisers, without endorsing any, and organizations and publications from which information on appraisers may be obtained. Insurance valuations, rather than formal appraisals, may be given by the curator for museum collection objects leaving the premises for loan.
“Authentications” are professional judgments regarding the identification, authorship, date, etc. of material, which imply legal responsibility or guarantee for the accuracy of the information. “Identifications” are judgments, often verbal, which are informed opinions, but do not carry any guarantee or legal responsibility. Qualified museum staff (curator and registrar) may provide identifications of material; however, they should not make authentications. Staff should not make identifications in areas in which they do not have expertise and should instead recommend other qualified staff members, outside individuals, or museums.
Collection Care and Use: The museum undertakes the preservation and maintenance of its collection in accordance with professionally accepted standards. Guidelines for the protection of the collections during regular hours, rental events, and tours are delineated in the Collections Management Policy. The entire staff is charged with the responsibility for ensuring the safety of the collection.
The museum works to advance the understanding and appreciation of art through programs including exhibitions, research, scholarship, publications, interpretation, and educational activities. These programs further the museum’s mission and are responsive to the concerns, interests, and needs of the people of the museum’s region, while not compromising the requirement to preserve the collections as a public trust.
Thus, the museum ensures that:
Programs promote the public good rather than individual gain.
It is the museum’s policy to provide equal employment opportunity for all employees and qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, veteran status, disability unrelated to the ability to perform a job with or without reasonable accommodation, or membership in any protected category under federal, state, or local law. This policy applies to all personnel actions, benefits, terms and conditions of employment including, but not limited to hiring, placement, training, compensation, transfer, promotion, leave-of-absence, termination, layoff and recall. This policy also applies to dealings with non-employees such as visitors, volunteers, vendors, or subcontractors. The museum is committed to the highest ethical principles in all relationships with business suppliers. Any museum staff member who is authorized to spend museum funds should do so with impartiality, honesty, and with regard only for the best interests of the museum.
Every museum employee is entitled to a measure of personal independence equal to that granted comparable professionals in other disciplines, consistent with professional responsibilities. Loyalty to the museum must always be in the forefront as the museum and its employees enjoy public visibility and enjoy a generous level of esteem. To the public, the museum and its staff are never wholly separated. Staff, board members and volunteers must be concerned not only with their own true, personal motivations and interests but also with the way in which such actions might be construed by the outside observer.
Employees, trustees, and volunteers must protect all confidential information relating to the source of material owned by or on loan to the museum, as well as security arrangements of the museum, or the security arrangements of private collections or any place visited in the course of official duties. Confidentiality must also be respected in relation to any item brought before the museum for identification of donors or potential donors. Information not otherwise available to the general public about the activities of the museum, including administrative or non-scholarly activities, the staff, trustees, or volunteers may acquire in the course of their duties shall not be used for personal advantage or other purposes.
Any and all materials or items developed, written, designed, drawn, painted, constructed or installed by employees, trustees or volunteers while carrying out their responsibilities to the museum are considered to be the property of the museum with the museum having all the rights to the property.
Volunteers are vital to the museum’s programs. The staff should collaborate with volunteers as fellow workers and provide them with appropriate training. Access to the museum’s internal activities and information is a trust. The lack of material compensation does not free volunteers from adherence to standards that apply to paid staff.
Outside Work, Associations or Activities: While the museum requires members of its staff to devote their working day to performing their job responsibilities, it recognizes that it may be in its best interests for staff to participate in certain outside activities. However, it is the museum's policy that, during normal working hours, staff shall not engage in “outside employment”.
Staff is encouraged to pursue voluntary and professional organizations and scholarly activity including teaching, lecturing, serving on committees or juries, and writing books or articles, independent of museum duties, provided that such activity is approved in advance by the relevant department head or executive director, does not interfere with the staff member’s performing museum responsibilities and meets the following guidelines:
The relationship between trustees and staff is naturally close and mutually beneficial to the museum. Nonetheless, trustees should not use their position to obtain unreasonable or excessive services or expertise from the staff of the museum. Trustees should not retain staff to perform personal services, and staff shall not provide services to trustees for which they receive compensation, unless approved in writing by the executive director.
Approval of any outside employment or activity is effective only until revoked and may be revoked by the museum at any time. If you fail to secure and retain approval, you may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.
Personal Collecting: Private collecting of art by the staff is an appropriate activity and may enhance expertise. However, the acquisition, maintenance, and management of a personal collection by a trustee or employee can create an ethical question. Extreme discretion is required whenever a trustee or employee collects objects similar to those collected by the museum. No trustee or employee or a member of their immediate family may knowingly compete, directly or indirectly, with the museum for the purchase of works of art that are, or may be, of interest to the museum. As discussed under deaccessioning, no trustees, employees or member of their immediate family may purchase deaccessioned works directly or indirectly. If staff members lend objects for an exhibition in the museum, they should lend them anonymously and be credited in gallery installation and publications as such.
Gifts: Conflicts of interest may arise in the areas of gifts and entertainment. Giving or accepting gifts and entertainment can sometimes be construed as an attempt to unduly influence a relationship. All gifts to the museum, including gifts of any kind to curatorial departments, must be processed through the Director of Development, and, if relevant, in accordance with the museum's Collection Management Policy. No personal gifts should be offered or received where the gift could be viewed as intended to influence a person in the exercise of proper business or professional judgment. In order to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, you must obtain the consent of the appropriate department head before accepting gifts of any kind from individuals or organizations doing business or wishing to do business with the museum. This includes, but is not limited to, artists, dealers, auction houses, press, and suppliers of goods or services to the museum. Museum staff may not accept gifts valued, individually or in combination with other gifts from the same source, at more than $100 in any calendar year. Works of art or other materials left with the museum for exhibition or study may not be retained by museum staff without specific approval from the executive director. Gifts of money are never permissible.
Attending occasional lunch or dinner meetings hosted by others may be necessary when conducting museum business. However, you are reminded that you must exercise extreme discretion in accepting invitations to dinners, lunches, or other forms of entertainment offered by individuals or organizations doing or wishing to do business with the museum. Your judgment should tell you when an invitation to such a meeting or event is improper and should be refused to prevent embarrassment and to avoid what may be an unintentional violation of this policy or the law.
As a museum employee, you may have the opportunity to work closely with artists in planning exhibitions and publications or through other museum-related activities. While an artist may wish to acknowledge a museum employee’s efforts through a gift of artwork to the employee, these gifts present another area of potential conflict. In such situations, the employee must promptly disclose the gift to his or her department head (or, if the gift is made to a department head, to the executive director), who will determine whether the work in question is of nominal value and may be accepted.
The Staff Manual: The KMA Employee Manual addresses many of the issues addressed in the code, as well as a number of other policies not directly addressed in the code, but of equal importance. Familiarity with and adherence to the employee manual is a responsibility of each employee. In the event of any conflict or inconsistency between the employee manual and the code, the code shall take precedence and be controlling.
VII. Museum Operations
Proper use of the Museum's Funds: The museum's activities involve hundreds of financial transactions each day, requiring strict rules to guard against fraud or dishonesty and guidelines for addressing possible problems that may arise. All managers should establish appropriate internal controls over all areas of their responsibility to ensure the safeguarding of the museum's assets and the accuracy of financial and all other records and reports. Established accounting practices and procedures must be followed to assure the complete and accurate recording of all transactions. All employees, within their areas of responsibility, are expected to adhere to these established controls.
If you become aware of any improper use of the museum's resources, you should report the matter immediately. To be certain the museum's policies on proper use of resources are carried out, you are expected to observe the following longstanding accounting rules:
The museum's business partners must be selected solely on their merits, in the best interest of the museum, and without regard to non-business-related considerations.
Fundraising: As a charity, the museum relies heavily on contributions from donors to support its many activities. Trustees and employees are encouraged to support this fund raising effort but must coordinate all activities with the Director of Development. Monies or other items received on behalf of the museum as gifts should be deposited immediately in museum accounts.
Charitable contributions from vendors to the museum may raise issues implicating federal and state laws, and may also present tax-related concerns. All such contributions should be reviewed by the Development Department and accepted on behalf of the museum by the executive director. Care should be taken when soliciting or receiving such contributions that the contributor not be led to believe, either directly or indirectly, that the contribution will affect the museum's professional judgment regarding the goods or services it purchases, recommends or provides.
The museum must further ensure that revenue-producing activities and activities that involve relationships with external entities are compatible with the museum’s mission and support its public trust responsibilities.
Tax: The museum is exempt from taxation by the federal, state and local governments. In order to maintain this exemption, which is critical to the museum's mission and continuing operations, the museum must operate for the benefit of the public and must avoid violating the tax code by using its funds for the unjust enrichment of any individual or entity at the organization's expense. Violation of the tax law can give rise to criminal penalties as well. Questions on tax issues should be referred to the museum’s legal counsel.
Care must also be taken that the museum's sales tax exemption is used only for legitimate museum activities. Personal items must not be purchased through the museum even if the museum is reimbursed by the trustee or employee.
VIII. Political Participation
It is understood that trustees and employees can and do participate in political campaigns in their individual capacities, on their own time and without any use of museum resources. However, such persons must take steps to ensure that their individual participation will not be attributed to the museum or make use of museum resources. The museum does not endorse political candidates or participate in political campaign activities. No museum trustee, staff member or volunteer may participate in any political campaign on behalf of the museum or engage in any other activity that would lead an outsider to believe that the museum is supporting or opposing a candidate for public office. This prohibition covers activities such as making campaign contributions, organizing or encouraging the purchase of tickets to political fundraising events, using museum facilities or resources for campaign-related activities, and publishing, making, or distributing statements for or against any candidate, where such activities are -- or may appear to be -- undertaken on behalf of the museum.
Certain museum activities are supported, in part, with funds received from the City of Knoxville, Knox County, the State of Tennessee, and the Federal Government. The museum may have elected officials, ex-officio, on its board of trustees. Nothing in this policy is intended to limit the museum's ability through its trustees, staff members, or volunteers to seek and accept governmental support, or prohibit elected officials from participating in the museum's governance and activities. Any trustee or employee who has questions regarding this policy should consult the museum’s legal counsel.
It is important to distinguish between personal and organizational political activities. As a responsible citizen, the museum occasionally will speak out on issues of importance to it. Senior management is responsible for developing the museum's position on relevant legislative and regulatory issues. Unless you are specifically requested by the museum to represent it before legislative or other governmental bodies, be sure you clearly label any personal communication with legislators as your own beliefs. If you are contacted by legislators or regulators regarding the museum's position on public issues, you should refer them to the executive director.
IX. Museum Information
Ownership of Assets and Intellectual Property: The objects in the museum's collections, their documentation and all additional documentation developed subsequent to or in connection with their acquisition or maintenance are the property of the museum. Any and all materials or items developed, written, designed, drawn, painted, constructed or installed by employees while carrying out their responsibilities as employees of the museum are the property of the museum. Unless otherwise agreed in writing by both the employee and the executive director, the museum is the sole owner of any materials written, designed or produced by an employee in the scope of his or her employment by the museum, or through the use of museum equipment and/or assets, including all copyrights and other intellectual property rights in and to these materials.
Confidentiality of Museum Information: One of the museum's most valuable assets is its body of confidential information. The widespread use of computer terminals and computer systems has caused information about the museum's collections, donors, projects and similarly sensitive matters to be accessible to many employees. Failure to protect this information adequately can lead to the loss of highly confidential data that may place the museum legally at risk. Because of this risk of harm to the museum, no employee shall, without the written consent of the museum during or subsequent to the term of employment, use for the benefit of such employee or others or disclose to others any confidential information obtained during the course of employment. Of course, these same principles apply to the safeguarding by trustees of the museum’s confidential information.
Confidential information includes the museum's methods, processes, techniques, computer software, equipment, servicemarks, copyrights, research data, marketing and sales information, personnel data, donor lists, member lists, non-public information about the collection, financial data, plans and all other know-how and trade secrets which are in the possession of the museum and which have not been published or disclosed to the general public.
As a trustee or employee, you are responsible and accountable for the integrity and protection of the museum's proprietary information and must take steps to protect information that has been entrusted to you. For example, you must not make inappropriate modifications of information or destroy or disclose information except as authorized. Documents containing sensitive data should be handled carefully by employees during work hours and must be properly secured at the end of the business day. Particular attention must be paid to the security of data stored on the computer system. If you observe unknown individuals using terminals in your area, immediately report this to your supervisor.
The same guidelines apply to intellectual property or confidential information of other organizations or individuals disclosed to the museum for its use. To avoid the risk of being accused of misappropriating or misusing someone's confidential or restricted information, receipt of the information should not take place until the terms of its use have been formally agreed to by the museum and the other party in a written agreement approved by the museum’s legal counsel. Furthermore, unless otherwise delegated, establishing such an agreement for the receipt of confidential or restricted information of another party will require the prior written approval of a executive director. Once another party's confidential or restricted information is properly in your hands, you must not use, copy, distribute or disclose that information unless you do so in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
X. Compliance with the Code
All reported violations of the code will be promptly investigated by the museum and will be treated confidentially to the extent consistent with the museum's interests and its legal obligations. Any issue that raises ethical questions should be brought to the appropriate supervisor and then on to the executive director, if needed. Once reviewed by the executive director and depending on the issue at hand, the matter might be brought before the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and then, if necessary, onto the full Board of Trustees to take appropriate action if needed. If an ethical issue is raised regarding a board member, the Committee on Trustees, then the Executive Committee and full Board of Trustees, if needed, will discuss the matter and take appropriate action if needed.
Disciplinary actions may be taken for:
Disciplinary action may, when appropriate, include dismissal. With respect to disciplinary action, principles of fairness will apply, including, when appropriate, review of a disciplinary decision.
Download Code of Ethics (pdf)
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