Founded in 1916, the Association of Art Museum Directors began life as an informal fraternity of museum professionals dedicated to upholding (in the words of its mission statement) “standards of excellence in museum practice.” What started with the directors of twelve museums gradually grew larger, formally incorporated in 1969, and now includes nearly 200 members. The aamd has tended to travel the high road. It promulgated a stringent code of ethics for museum professionals, warning against conflicts of interest, using one’s position for personal gain, stipulating that “a museum director shall not dispose of accessioned works of art in order to provide funds for purposes other than acquisitions of works of art for the collection.”

The AAMD has also been conspicuously on the side of connoisseurship and “standards of excellence” in the research, collecting, and preservati ...