The International Council of Museums (ICOM), created in 1946, is the only organisation of museums and museum professionals with a global scope, committed to the promotion and protection of natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible. With approximately 35,000 members in 137 countries, ICOM is a network of museum professionals acting in a wide range of museum- and heritage-related disciplines.
Created in 1946, ICOM is a non-governmental organisation maintaining formal relations with UNESCO and having a consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. ICOM also partners with entities such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, INTERPOL, and the World Customs Organization in order to carry out its international public service missions, which include fighting illicit traffic in cultural goods and promoting risk management and emergency preparedness to protect world cultural heritage in the event of natural or man-made disasters.
Code of ethics for museums
ICOM adopted its ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums in 1986, a reference tool that sets standards of excellence to which all members of the organisation must adhere. The ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, translated into 39 languages and revised in 2006, establishes values and principles shared by ICOM and the international museum community. These standards of self-regulation by museums include basic principles for museum governance, the acquisition and disposal of collections, and rules for professional conduct.
Fighting illicit traffic
Illicit traffic in cultural goods causes significant damage to heritage, particularly in regions of the world where cultural objects are most susceptible to theft and looting. Supporting the fight against illicit traffic in cultural goods is among ICOM’s highest priorities. In this context, ICOM publishes its Red List series to raise awareness on smuggling and illicit trade in cultural objects. The ICOM Red Lists are tools designed to help police and customs officials, heritage professionals, and art and antiquities dealers to identify the types of objects that are most susceptible to illicit trafficking.