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Updating Governing Documents- Key Information

Have you recently updated or thinking of updating your governing document? In this blog, we have some timely reminders about what those documents need to include from a museum perspective. 


Governing documents underpin all museums. They explain why the organisation exists and what it aims to do, what powers the organisation has, who has governance responsibilities, and crucially how the collection and the work the museum undertake supports these aspirations.  

The museum closures caused by Covid restrictions gave many the opportunity to review their governing documents. It is good practice to update and ensure these documents remain fit for purpose by making changes to simplify language and to allow virtual decision-making meetings. There is lots of helpful advice on the OSCR website, particularly in their Covid recovery section, to help with this. 

It’s become apparent that in the rush to modernise these documents, that some key museum elements have been omitted. These museum specific elements won’t be picked up by solicitors or OSCR either. It is a time-consuming process to update and reapprove documents. To help you undertake this process, we’ve listed what the governing documents need to include to ensure full compliance with the Accreditation Standard and to follow good museum practice. 

In addition to the legal requirements regulated by OSCR, the Accreditation Standard requires that the organisation: 

  • Exists for public benefit 
  • Can demonstrate its collections and assets are appropriately protected 
  • Has powers to operate a museum and hold collections and assets. These powers must be transparent and should not include the ability to distribute assets or profiles for private gain. 
  • Is subject to statutory regulation or judicial process in relation to its conduct. 
  • Must be a permanent entity with a long-term purpose 

This means that there needs to be a clear distinction between financial assets and accessioned collections. You can do this by: 

  • Adding a definition of what ‘accessioned collection’ means; 
  • Stating intent that the collection will not be used as security to raise funds;  
  • Clearly stating in the winding up/dissolution procedures that the accessioned items that make up the collection are going to be kept together and within the public domain. 

This aligns the governing document with the museums’ Collections Development Policy, and through good museum practice and the Code of Ethics, eliminates any grey areas between the two documents. 

We’re here to support you and are happy to view draft versions of governing documents before you take them for approval. Contact Jenny and Victoria on