CEO Summit

2020 CEO Summit

The Crisis of Conscience: Museums, Ethics, and Leadership

May 17, 2020, 8am-1:30pm
Merchants Exchange Building
465 California Street
Julia Morgan Ballroom

About the Program

Museums are undergoing a reappraisal of their value and relevance through the ever-changing gaze of their stakeholders. This value may be measured in part by each museum’s ethical decision-making and behaviors that advance the common good, however defined.  We are also witnessing more frequent, highly-charged discussions of such issues as cultural property, cultural representation, and identity in collections and exhibitions, and fundraising/sponsorship. What are the ethical principles at the heart of these matters, and the actions and contexts that give them pulse? While a museum’s code of ethics provides guidance for conduct and decision-making, what are the underlying values that express its spirit?

Today, no doubt, values are under assault and raise new questions for museums and their publics on what and who gives museums their meaning and how this is embodied in their ethical practices, behaviors, and organizational culture. Whose stories to tell and by whom? What objects to collect or return? What audiences to welcome and how? Which financial contributions to accept or not? In short, it is an era characterized by independent curator Olga Viso in her article “Finding Resilience in Challenging Times” (Museum, March/April 2019), as “a crisis of conscience and confidence” in which some leaders are besieged, beleaguered, and at times beleaguered by the competing, and often contradictory, values and perspectives expressed across a museum’s varied constituencies. Some suggest that it is time for organizational change to bridge the divide between boundaries and belonging, redefine what matters most, and better realign ethics and values.

Resolving ethical dilemmas is never easy: they are fraught with ambiguity, involve competing choices, and have no single right answer. For museums, whose acts and deeds embody a shared humanity, the public trust, and our responsibility to each other, the task may seem even more daunting. Yet in this challenge museums have the opportunity to embrace both ethical boundaries and possibilities to elicit the better angels in themselves and others.

Through a featured presenter, CEO panel discussion, and facilitated informal round table discussion, participants will gain a better understanding of the interplay between ethics, leadership, and museum practice:

  • What are new roles and responsibilities for museums in an era of moral disquietude?
  • What constitutes ethical professional conduct for museum leaders and their stakeholders?
  • What are some current ethical dilemmas in museums and how are they being addressed in museum practice? 
  • What collective actions can museums champion to shape a more ethical future?

Generously supported by


Featured Speaker

Headshot of Kwame Anthony Appiah in front of bookshelves

Kwame Anthony Appiah challenges us to look beyond the boundaries—real and imagined—that divide us, and to celebrate our common humanity. Named one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 public intellectuals, one of the Carnegie Corporation’s “Great Immigrants,” and awarded a National Humanities Medal by The White House, Appiah currently teaches at NYU, though he’s previously taught at Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Duke, and the University of Ghana. He considers readers’ ethical quandaries in a weekly column “The Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine. From 2009 to 2012 he served as President of the PEN American Center, the world’s oldest human rights organization. He is currently chair of The Man Booker Prize.  

Appiah’s books include: Cosmopolitanism, a manifesto for a world where identity has become a weapon and where difference has become a cause of pain and suffering; and The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, which lays out how honor propelled moral revolutions in the past—and could do so in the future. Among his most recent books are As If: Idealization and Ideals, Mistaken Identities, and the recently published The Lies That Bind, an exploration of the nature and history of the identities that define us. 

Appiah was born in London to a Ghanaian father and a white mother. He was raised in Ghana, and educated in England at Cambridge University, where he received a Ph.D. in philosophy. As a scholar of African and African-American studies, he established himself as an intellectual with a broad reach. His book In My Father’s House and his collaborations with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—including The Dictionary of Global Culture and Africana—are major works of African struggles for self-determination.


Photograph of Sally Yerkovich in sunny, outdoor environment

Sally Yerkovich is Director of Educational Exchange and Special Projects at The American-Scandinavian Foundation and Adjunct Professor in the Master’s Degree program in Museum Anthropology at Columbia University. She serves as the Chair of the International Council of Museums Ethics Committee as well as the Professional Standards and Ethics Committee of the American Association of State and Local History. Author of A Practical Guide to Museum Ethics, her work, which draws upon more than thirty years of leadership experience, is increasingly engaged with how museums will face the ethical challenges of the future.

A cultural anthropologist with experience in museums and cultural institutions in New York and Washington, DC, she held leadership positions at the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, South Street Seaport Museum, and Museum of the City of New York. She was president and CEO of The New Jersey Historical Society, Executive Director at the Museum for African Art, and first president of the 9/11 Tribute NYC Museum.  She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and her A.B. from Connecticut College.


photograph of Micah Parzen

Micah Parzen has served as CEO of the San Diego Museum of Man since 2010. Over the past nine years, he and his team have gradually transformed the museum from a musty, dusty, and tired institution in significant distress into one that is thriving, both inside and out. In 2018, the museum received the University of San Diego’s prestigious “Kaleidoscope Award for Good Governance” under his leadership. Parzen currently serves on the boards of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership and the Western Museums Association, and on the Mayoral-appointed Balboa Park Committee. He is often called on to consult—and regularly speaks at local, regional, and national conferences—on a wide variety of topics related to museums and the non-profit sector.
Prior to becoming CEO of the San Diego Museum of Man, Parzen was a Partner in the Labor & Employment Practice Group at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, LLP, where he served as the firm’s Pro Bono Program Coordinator. He has been named a “Top Young Attorney” by the San Diego Daily Transcript, a “40 Under Forty” by San Diego Metro Magazine, and one of San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch.”  His past board service includes the San Diego Volunteer Lawyers Program, the Waldorf School of San Diego, and ElderHelp of San Diego, where he was chair for two years. Parzen received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in anthropology and Juris Doctor degree from UC Davis.

LOS ANGELES, CA-AUGUST 17, 2012:  Jeff Rudolph, president of the California Science Center in Los Angeles,  is photographed in front of a Hubble Space Telescope image of part of the Carina Nebula, a place in our galaxy where stars are born, on display, inside the California Science Center on August 17, 2012.   (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Jeffrey Rudolph is the President and CEO of the California Science Center.  He provided the leadership for the planning, design, fundraising and implementation of the California Science Center’s 25 year Master Plan which transformed the California Museum of Science and Industry into the new California Science Center and created an award-winning Exposition Park Master Plan to guide the redevelopment of Exposition Park in central Los Angeles. 
Rudolph is a Past Chair of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and served as Chair from 2004-2006 and as Chair of the AAM CEO Search Committee from 2006-2007.  Rudolph is Fellow and Past President of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC). He currently serves on the Boards of ASTC, EXPO Center, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, and the Los Angeles Tourism Marketing District.   He has also served on the Board of Science Museum Exhibits Collaborative and the National Health Science Consortium and Museum Trustees Association Advisory Council of Directors. He is a Senior Fellow of the California Council on Science and Technology. Rudolph received an M.B.A. from Yale University and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Headshot of Julie Stein

Julie K. Stein was appointed Executive Director of The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in 2005. A ten-year campaign resulted in a new facility opening in October 2019 that reveals The Burke’s research and collections in a radically transparent and accessible way and connects visitors to staff and volunteers who use them. This process is called “turning the museum inside out” and establishes the Burke as a new kind of museum.
Previously she served as the Museum’s Curator of Archaeology. She also maintains a professorial position in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington and was Divisional Dean of Research, Computing, and Facilities for the College of Arts and Sciences. Stein received her M.A and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota and her B.A degree from Western Michigan University. Her research interests are in geoarchaeology, especially studies involving Northwest Coast shell middens. She has excavated archaeological sites on Washington’s San Juan Islands since 1983 and continues to collaborate on research projects.

Headshot of Olga Viso on gray background

Olga Viso is an independent curator and nonprofit arts consultant living between New York and Arizona.  She advises artists, museums, foundations, and academic institutions across a variety of artistic, curatorial and strategic areas including facilities planning, organizational design, operations, and collections management.  She is currently a senior advisor to the Dean at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University working on several major arts initiatives including partnerships with visual artist James Turrell’s Skystone Foundation and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Viso has worked in museums since the late 1980s and was executive director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (2008-2017) and director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, where she was also curator of contemporary art and deputy director (1995-2007).  As a scholar of contemporary and Latin American art, she has organized numerous solo and group exhibitions that have toured internationally. She is currently a Fellow in Residence at the Mellon Foundation in New York and a visiting scholar at the Smithsonian Institution.  She was appointed in 2013 by President Barack Obama as a member of the National Council on the Arts, which advises the National Endowment for the Arts, and served on the board of the Association of Art Museum Directors. She is a 2019 recipient of an Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Research Fellowship and a member of CIMAM. 

Preliminary Agenda

Sunday, May 17                  CEO Summit Merchants Exchange Building, Julia Morgan Ballroom
8:00 a.m.                              Check-in, coffee, continental breakfast, and conversation
8:30-8:45 a.m.                      Welcome and Opening Remarks
8:45-9:30 a.m.                      Featured Speaker: Kwame Anthony Appiah
9:30-9:45 a.m.                      Question & Answer
9:45-10:00 a.m.                    Break       
10-11:00 a.m.                       Panel Discussion: Sally Yerkovich in conversation with Micah Parzen, Jeff Rudolph, Julie Stein, and Olga Viso
11:00 a.m-12 noon               Facilitated Conversation with Peers
12 noon-12:30 p.m.              Reporting Out & Next Steps
12:30-1:30 p.m.                    Luncheon


Invitations are non-transferable and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Attendance is limited. Registration to the CEO Summit also includes full registration to the 2020 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo. Registration must be purchased no later than April 3, 2020. Pricing is dependent on your membership level. Use the registration button below to sign in to your account for pricing.

If you wish to attend the CEO Summit but have already registered for the Annual Meeting, contact Dean Phelus at