Saturday, May 14, 2011

Strict Scrutiny

Also in the Maine Antique Digest, an update on the New York Board of Regents ad-hoc committee's proposed regulations for deaccessioning.  The thrust of the article is that new "criteria" for deaccessioning are being developed, but, as I noted here, since one of the "criteria" is "refinement of the collection," they may as well just say "because we feel like it."

So the conversation will now go something like this:

New York State (deeply, deeply concerned with the loss of works held in "the public trust"):  "Why did you sell that Renoir?"

Museum:  "To refine our collection."

New York State:  "Okay, you pass."

Wow. Scary stuff.  The museums must be shaking in their boots.

Some quotes by the executive director of the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse towards the end of the article kind of give the game away.  He praises the proposed rules because they "avoid[] any ... conflicts that might exist between regulations that we follow as a part of our professional accreditation and associations, and what is required of us here in New York state."  The museums were interested in "mak[ing] sure we don't get over-regulated."  The new rules "pretty much lin[e] up with what we are already doing," whereas the guidelines "as they existed before still needed work to refine" in order to make sure that they "truly did line up with what we already do as a part of" the AAM and AAMD.

So the museums have succeeded in guiding the process to a place where the rules make them do what they were already doing.  Except now those rules -- that exercise in smoke and mirrors -- will have the force of law.