Dr Janet Marstine

Associate Professor of Museum Ethics, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester email: jm423@le.ac.uk tel: +44 (0) 116-252-3971

Dr Janet Marstine



I am a scholar of museum ethics, having developed a novel approach that activates the agency of practitioners through discourse at the intersection of codes, values and case studies. My larger aim is to advance a museum ethics discourse as robust as those of medical ethics, business ethics and environmental ethics. My work is deeply informed by feminist and relational ethics and I am particularly interested in how practitioners can develop ethical frameworks to forge more equitable relationships between museums and their publics. I see museum ethics as culturally situated and collaborate with partners internationally to develop cross-cultural understandings of ethical practice. Through research in the US, Europe, Hong Kong, China and the UK, I have established a research trajectory analysing ethics topics including museum transparency, navigating the pressures of curatorial self-censorship and artists’ interventions as drivers for ethical change. I sit on the Ethics Committee of the Museums Association (MA) and helped shape the 2015 rewriting of the MA ethics code which shapes professional practice in the UK.

Here in the School of Museum Studies at Leicester I am currently (Joint) Deputy Head of School and Director of Alumni, Employability and Placements. I am also Director of the Chinese Museology Research Alliance, a platform for relationship-building that facilitates collaboration between researchers from the School of Museum Studies and researchers and practitioners across China and Hong Kong. Previously, I was Programme Director of Art Museum and Gallery Studies and Academic Director, leading the process of major curriculum change. I also chaired our Diversity and Equality Working Group and led on our successful Athena Swan Bronze Award submission for Gender Equality.

I joined the University in 2010, from Seton Hall University in New Jersey where I was Assistant Professor and Founding Director of the Institute of Museum Ethics. I previously taught at Bowdoin College in Maine.



I lead sessions on museum ethics across all of our masters programmes. I also teach feminist methodologies of art history and curation in our Art Museum and Gallery Studies Programme. My teaching is research-driven and I consistently update and innovate based on my scholarship. Ethics is a particularly suitable topic through which to design problem-based learning activities and other participatory experiences and I make the most of this. I draw from an international mix of case studies, stemming from the interests of our students and my own research trajectory. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


My research explores and advances innovations in museum ethics. In my scholarship, I argue that traditional museum ethics, as embodied by codes of practice, is a rigid approach unable to guide museums through the complex, shifting 21st-century ethical terrain.

I posit that ethics undergirds all areas of museum work including how and whose cultures are valued, the balance between preservation and public access and the role of the state in these activities.

I redefine museum ethics as both a discourse and a practice emerging from convergences among case studies, values/ principles and living, breathing ethics codes.

At a time when budget cuts and a lack of ethical self-reflexivity have put the future of museums in the UK and around the world in jeopardy, this research introduces to museums new dynamic concepts of ethics responsive to the concerns of human rights, deliberative democracy and globalisation.

Funded research projects


I am available to supervise PhD and Masters projects in diverse areas related to my interests and expertise.

Topics available:

  • Museum ethics
  • children's museology
  • co-productive practices
  • curating 'difficult' issues
  • institutional critique
  • socially engaged artistic practice
  • diversity, equality and inclusion
  • feminist art and curation
  • memorial museums
  • organisational change


My current research students are working on:

  • public engagement in disposal/de-accession decision-making
  • collaborative practices in Taiwan's alternative art spaces
  • negotiating intangible heritage in Israeli museums
  • the work of community museums in China
  • sustainable approaches to contemporary artists' commissions in historic houses
  • new pedagogies for engaging middle-school children in China's Buddhist heritage sites
  • the ethics of collecting and exhibiting photographs of children expressing bodily awareness
  • public programming for children's well-being in Chinese museums


Research students completed:

  • Zheng Zhang, ‘Ways of Sharing: A relational approach to understanding the groundwork for Sino-Japanese repatriation’, 2018.
  • Sipei Lu, ‘Socially Engaged Arts in China and Their Entanglements with Art Institutions’, 2018.
  • Victoria Hollows, ‘Trust in the Museum: Aligning the internal and external values of the organisation’, 2017
  • Laura Diaz Ramos, ‘Feminist Curatorial Interventions in Museums and Organisational Change: Transforming the museum from a feminist perspective’, 2016.
  • Catharina Hendrick, ‘The Agile Museum: Organisational change through collecting new media art’, 2015.



[in progress] Marstine, Janet and Svetlana Mintcheva (eds.) (expected publication 2020) Curating under Pressure: International perspectives on negotiating conflict and upholding integrity. London: Routledge. Museum Meanings series.

[in progress] Marstine, Janet, Ethan Lasser and Ho, Oscar (eds.) (expected publication 2020). Curating Art, London and New York: Routledge. Leicester Readers in Museum Studies series.

Marstine, Janet (2017) Critical Practice: Artists, museums, ethics, London and New York: Routledge. Museum Meanings series

Marstine, Janet, Bauer, Alexander and Haines, Chelsea (eds.) (2012) New Directions in Museum Ethics, London and New York: Routledge.

Marstine, Janet (ed.) (2011) Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics: Redefining Ethics for the Twenty-First Century Museum. London and New York. Routledge.

Marstine, Janet (ed.) (2005) New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction. Malden and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (Chinese trans. 2009; Macedonian trans. 2010).

Book chapters

[in progress] Marstine, Janet and Ho, Oscar (expected publication 2019) ‘Rethinking the curator’s remit: negotiating curatorial integrity’’. In Janet Marstine and Svetlana Mintcheva (eds.) Curating under Pressure: International perspectives on negotiating conflict and upholding integrity. London: Routledge. Museum Meanings series.

Marstine, Janet, Dodd, Jocelyn and Jones, Ceri (2015) ‘Twenty-first century museum ethics: a view from the field’. In Conal McCarthy (ed.) International Handbook of Museum Studies: Volume 4: Museum Practice: Critical debates in the museum sector. General editors Helen Rees Leahy and Sharon Macdonald. Malden and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, pp. 69-96.

Marstine, Janet (2012) ‘A conversation with Fred Wilson on museums and social justice’. In Richard Sandell and Eithne Nightingale (eds.) Museums, Equality and Social Justice. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 38-44.

Marstine, Janet (2012) ‘Fred Wilson, good work, and the phenomenon of Freud’s mystic writing pad’. In Richard Sandell and Eithne Nightingale (eds.) Museums, Equality and Social Justice. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 84-102.

Marstine, Janet. (2012) ‘Situated revelations: radical transparency in the museum’. In Janet Marstine, Alexander Bauer and Chelsea Haines (eds.) New Directions in Museum Ethics. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 1-23.

Marstine, Janet (2011) ‘The contingent nature of museum ethics’. In The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics: Redefining Ethics for the Twenty-First Century Museum. London and New York: Routledge, 3-25.

King, Lyndel and Janet Marstine (2005) ‘The university museum/gallery: a site for institutional critique and a focus of the curriculum’. In Janet Marstine (ed.) New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction. Malden and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 266-91.

Peer reviewed articles

Marstine, Janet (2013) 'Cultural collisions in socially engaged artistic practice: "temple swapping" and hybridity in the work of Theaster Gates'. Museum Worlds: Advances in Practice 1: 153-178.

Marstine, Janet, Bauer, Alex and Haines, Chelsea (2011) ‘Introduction’. In ‘New Directions in Museum Ethics’, Special issue of Museum Management and Curatorship 26 (2): 91-95.

Marstine, Janet. (2007). ‘What a mess! claiming a space for undergraduate student experimentation in the university museum’. Museum Management and Curatorship 22 (3): 303-15.

Marstine, Janet. (2002) ‘Challenging the gendered categories of art and art therapy: the paintings of Jane Orleman’. Feminist Studies 28 (3): 631-55.

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