What is deaccessioning?
The permanent removal of an object or work of art from a museum’s collection by sale, or gift to another institution. The preferred methods to deaccession works are the sale or transfer to, or exchange with, another public institutions or sale through publicly advertised auction. In the case of a work of art by a living artist, consideration may be given to an exchange with the artist.
For a link to The Association of Art Museum Directors’ Policy on Deaccessioning, see: AAMD Policy on Deaccessioning (PDF)
The collections of art museums require periodic reevaluation to improve overall quality and thoughtful long–term growth. The thoughtful and considered decision to deaccession is made solely to support the mission and long-term goals of the museum and to improve the quality, scope, and appropriateness of the collection, It is a museum best practice to periodically review existing works in the collection. Deaccessioning works also helps alleviate long-term care and storage of those items, which helps reduce cost to the museum. When an object is deaccessioned, the donor’s gift to the museum will continue to be recognized by ensuring their name remains connected with the museum and future art purchases.
Who decides what to deaccession?
Working with the museum’s curatorial department and outside specialists, the Director recommends objects for deaccessioning to the Collection Committee. The Collection Committee advises the Board of Trustees who have final approval on deaccessioning, as well as accessioning.
Where do the newly acquired funds go?
Proceeds from a deaccessioned collection work are used only to acquire other works of art in accordance with AAMD guidelines. In line with our collection policy and standard museum professional practices, proceeds from art sales are never used as operating funds, to build a general endowment, or for any other expenses. Funds from deaccessioning are either used immediately to purchase other works or are invested in an acquisitions endowment earmarked to support the long-term growth of a museum’s collection. Proceeds from sale of property not included in the collection are allocated according to the designation of the Board of Trustees.
How will the public know what is being deaccessioned?
The museum’s deaccessioning process is public and transparent. No action pertaining to deaccessioning would be taken if it compromised the integrity and good standing of the institution and its community at large and within the profession. The process includes the museum’s director and curatorial staff, in consultation with trustees, collection committee, and scholars to weigh all considerations by way of the policy when determining whether to deaccession an object or not. All deaccessioned material that is not transferred to another non-profit organization would be sold via public auctions.
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