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Proposal for a Charter of Principles for Museums and Cultural Tourism


In accordance with the ICOM Code of Professional Ethics, the duties of a Museum, as a non-profit institution in the service of society and of its development includes among others:

  • To encourage the active participation of the communities and serve as educator and cultural mediator to an increasing number of visitors belonging to all levels of the community, locality or social group;
  • To play a predominant role in the efforts to stop the degradation of cultural and natural resources, according to principles, standards and objectives of national and international measures for the protection and appreciation of cultural heritage;
  • To ensure that the financial resources derived from policies or economic relationships do not compromise the principles, standards and objectives of the museum.

In addition, the museum should ensure that its professionals:

  • Provide proper protection for heritage property in general and preserve and carry out research on its own collection in particular;
  • Respect the principle by which museums represent a public responsibility whose value for the community is in direct proportion to the quality of its objectives;
  • Promote awareness and management of cultural heritage, not only with their colleagues, but also with members of the community concerned, with due tact and respect for the feelings of human dignity held by all peoples.

Cultural tourism ethics require all stakeholders to ensure that the visitor combines creative knowledge with the enjoyment of his free time. He should be encouraged to share a social context which, although unfamiliar, invites him to participate in the life and local wisdom of the host community. In order to accomplish this, training for all staff is important; from those participating in museum activities, to cultural staff and tourism professionals, and especially those concerned with the preservation of cultural heritage, its principles, standards, objectives and requirements.

Cultural tourism is linked to heritage through a collection of contributions of a culture, people or community, displaying the material evidence of its own identity through its cultural expressions. This link is unique and exceptional and constitutes a non renewable resource. Cultural heritage cannot become a consumer product nor can its relationship with the visitor be superficial. If the tourist is able to identify with the heritage, he can appreciate its value and the importance of preserving it and thus become an ally of museums.

Museums are categorised according to the nature of their collections, and the more attractive they are to different audiences, the larger the number of visitors they will be able to attract. Eager to learn about something completely new and original, tourists prefer to go to those museums that are representative of the history, culture and traditions of the host country.

Museums constitute an important resource for Cultural Tourism for several reasons: their status as cultural mediators and the diversity of their collections, their category (whether public or private and national, regional or local), and their conditions of multiplicity, uniqueness, freedom, flexibility and creative potentiality.

  • Legislation for the promotion of a tourism which includes investments and interventions in areas of heritage value, should ensure that preservation of cultural and natural heritage shall take precedence over economic interests, where there is a risk of irreversible damage.
  • Co-operation between museological institutions, tourism sector institutions and the communities should be encouraged and arranged.
  • Legislative consistency necessary for defending heritage and tourist development should be addressed, taking into consideration the coexistence of the different levels of governmental authority as well as the various social sectors concerned. The participation of representatives from the local communities should be especially encouraged.
  • Museums shall favour self-management as a way to redistribute socio-economic benefits of cultural tourism to the community, since tourism development represents a proven option for generating resources. If they are properly administrated, these resources can directly benefit heritage institutions, especially museums and the communities where they are located.

The interaction between tourism and museums is a relationship that can affect the preservation of natural and cultural heritage including that of the collections and the values they transmit. Such a relationship should maintain an ethics of preservation in order to ensure the permanence of the objects.

  • Cultural heritage property is unique and irreplaceable. Its authenticity has an appraised value and its loss or deterioration represents a loss for universal culture. Responsible and sustainable tourism reduces the impact and the deterioration of cultural property to a minimum.
  • The characteristics of cultural heritage requires museum professionals, tour operators and visitors to be a morally and ethically responsible. For this reason programmes targeting preventive preservation should take priority.
  • Evaluating the impact of visitors and regulating tourism use of the museum should take priority when planning for heritage tourism. Such studies should take into account the/an appropriate conceptual and programmatic foundation agreed upon by the sectors involved. With such a foundation, the challenge of using a heritage resource for tourism purposes could be met.

In regards to cultural tourism, museums should encourage the active participation of the local communities in the planning of both heritage management and the operations of tourist venues.

  • The links between heritage property and the communities where they originated and where they acquired a historic meaning cannot be broken. Museums are called on to promote the identification, appreciation and preservation of such objects, as well as the environment in which they belong. The participation of members of the communities and social sectors involved in these areas is fundamental in this endeavour, and in so doing they exercise and defend both their individual and collective rights.
  • The community should take part in the design, planning, execution and monitoring phases of activities likely to use cultural heritage for tourism purposes. In order to accomplish this, both cultural identification and improvement in the quality of life of social groups involved in the cultural event are necessary.
  • The socio-cultural symbiosis between tourism activity and heritage resources, with the free and democratic participation of many sectors, should ensure the quality of the tourism services, the authenticity of the products offered to the visitor as well as the foundations for the cultural event.
  • Museums should encourage the communities to manage their cultural heritage, for which they should encourage suitable training.

A harmonious relationship between museums and cultural tourism should address all constituent aspects of the museum such as the infrastructure, quality of the collection, information and communication systems, educational and exhibition activities, the staff and the relationship with its surroundings.

  • Museums should be designed for everyone and not exclusively for tourists, although this sector represents an important part of its public. In their social function, museums should create enjoyable experiences emphasising education and communication. To this end the information presented should be easily understood, with language barriers reduced to a minimum, facilitating communication and with professional staff for trained both museological duties and visitor assistance. Additionally, museums should provide a collection that is appropriately selected and preserved, using the latest technology available.
  • Tourism should be a creative use of free time, providing experiences in a time and space away from daily routines. Museums shall create the necessary conditions for their visitors to circulate at their own pace and enjoy their stay. It is important to plan tours using temporary programmes which are restricted to a schedule that satisfies both the leisure periods of the local inhabitants and alternatives for foreign tourists.
  • Museums and cultural tourism should encourage the interaction between visitors and the host community in a framework of respect towards the values and the hospitality that are offered.

From an economic point of view, commercialisation of cultural tourism based on heritage resources should include profitability in its economic, social and environmental dimensions.

  • Planning of cultural projects, from the perspective of the museum and cultural tourism, should reflect marketing strategies consistent with the characteristics of the cultural resources and the host communities.
  • The preservation of the legacy deposited in museums is a responsibility that transcends all administrative authorities to become a responsibility of the country. This does not exempt museums from developing their own mechanisms to seek alternate sponsors and financing; neither does it preclude them from attempting to become profitable institutions capable of generating resources without making concessions, offering a genuine product whose essential strength lies in being exceptional and a repository of identity.
  • Participation of museums in guided tours entails designing and complementing the cultural offering, in addition to being integral elements of the network of tourist attractions at each location. Museums can also be meeting points and points of departure for other itineraries and services, such as places of interest to tourists, restaurants, transportation, handicrafts, etc.
Updated: 14 June 2005