Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Deaccessioning is both legal and ethical ... and should be embraced as a tool for museum survival."

Via The Deaccessioning Blog, a student Note entitled Let Them Sell Art: Why a Broader Deaccession Policy Today Could Save Museums Tomorrow: "Instead of exiling museums for deaccessioning for financial reasons and forcing other museums to cancel loans to and exhibits with the exiled museum, the AAMD and AAM should work with their members to form and enforce a deaccessioning policy that will protect the public trust by helping museums stay open."

Or we can just let them fail.

Do you ever get the feeling that, outside a small circle of True Believers, no one's really buying the absolutist case against deaccessioning?

But speaking of the small group of True Believers, there is one bit of news in the Note (or at least it's news to me; I don't recall seeing this reported anywhere): it seems the NY Board of Regents ad hoc committee on deaccessioning has proposed an amendment to the current rules and -- big surprise! -- the idea is to maintain the status quo. They keep the basic AAMD principle -- sales proceeds can only be used to buy more art -- but now they propose to tell museums When It’s Okay to deaccession (even when the proceeds go to buy more art). There's a list of nine specific crieria -- the item is inconsistent with the mission of the institution, the item has failed to retain its identity, the museum can no longer properly care for it, etc. -- but one of them is "refinement of the collection" and that seems to me to be an exception big enough to drive a truck through. I think you can justify just about any case of deaccessioning by saying it’s to REFINE THE COLLECTION. So as a practical matter, I don’t know how much of a difference this proposed amendment to the rules would make. Which I suppose is how the museum directors want it.