National Council on Public History Code of Conduct

National Council on Public History Code of Conduct


  1. Public historians should serve as advocates for the preservation, care, and accessibility of historical records and resources of all kinds, including intangible cultural resources.
  2. Public historians should carry out historical research and present historical evidence with integrity.
  3. Public historians should strive to be culturally inclusive in the practice of history and in the presentation of history.
  4. Public historians should be fully cognizant of the purpose or purposes for which their work is intended, recognizing that research-based decisions and actions may have long-term consequences.
  5. Public historians should maintain a conscious regard for the interpersonal dynamics inherent in historical practice.



The Public Historians’ Responsibility to Clients and Employers

Public historians have a responsibility to perform work competently, diligently, creatively, and independently in pursuit of a client’s or employer’s interest, and a corollary responsibility to assure that such performance is consistent with their service to the public interest.

  1. A public historian should respect the decisions of a client or employer concerning the objectives and nature of the professional services to be performed unless such performance involves conduct which is illegal, immoral, or unethical.
  2. A public historian should maintain exclusive supervision over historical research studies and investigations.
  3. A public historian should exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client and employer.
  4. A public historian should not solicit prospective clients or employment through the use of false or misleading claims, harassment, or duress.
  5. A public historian should not offer professional services by stating or implying an ability to influence decisions by improper means.
  6. A public historian should not accept or continue to perform work that is beyond his or her professional competence.
  7. A public historian should not perform work if there is an actual, apparent, or reasonably foreseeable conflict of interest, or an appearance of impropriety, without full written disclosure to the affected client/s or employer/s.
  8. A public historian is obligated not to disclose information gained in a professional relationship when the client or employer has requested such information to be held confidential. Exceptions to the principle of non-disclosure must be made when required by process of law. Exceptions may be made when disclosure would prevent a violation of law or prevent a substantial injustice to the public interest. In such instances, a public historian must verify the facts and issues of the circumstance and, when practicable, make every reasonable effort to obtain separate opinions from other qualified professionals employed by the client or employer and every reasonable effort to obtain reconsideration from the client or employer.
  9. A public historian should not use the power of any office or professional relationship to seek or obtain a special advantage that is not in the public interest.


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