Museums have moved beyond exclusively collections-based missions, and the economics of museums have tightened considerably. As a result, the tenor of the discussion around the practice of deaccessioning and use of its proceeds has become livelier, if not strident. While the professional associations continue to expect adherence to their standards, Boards of Trustees are looking at museum collections as assets that can potentially be monetized to support the museum’s mission or ensure its survival. As museum professionals and trustees engage in these discussions and make critical decisions for their institutions, they will benefit from a deeper understanding of the complex and nuanced aspects of deaccessioning, which this book presents anew.Is It Okay to Sell the Monet? provides background on deaccessioning and disposal of deaccessioned objects and a context for changes in the field brought about by expanding missions and contracting resources. It includes an important discussion on how museums might utilize collections in new ways that benefit their visitors and communities. It provides practical guidance on the process of disposing of objects and explores the ethical standards of professional museum associations—examining their history, relevancy, and practical effect. It also delves into the complicated legal issues that sometimes challenge these ethical rules. Finally, it analyzes high profile museum case studies with important takeaways that will be useful for museums faced with similar circumstances.
Julia Courtney holds masters degrees in art history and museum studies (Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts) and art and museum education (Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts). She recently published The Legal Guide for Museum Professionals (Rowman & Littielfield, April 2015). She has been in the museum field for over 23 years, and Curator of Art emeritus for the Springfield Art Museums in Springfield, Massachusetts. She is an independent curator, freelance writer, artist and adjunct faculty member for the Graduate Museum Studies Program at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts and the Graduate Gallery Management and Exhibits Program at Western Colorado State University in Gunnison, Colorado.
While deaccessioning is an acceptable collection management option for most museums, it also has the potential to cause enormous public controversy. "Is it Okay to Sell the Monet?" brings together thoughtful essays presenting various perspectives on the practice. It is a valued, reasoned, and welcome addition to discussion of this often highly volatile topic.
This timely collection of essays should be mandatory reading for all museum professionals. It offers fresh perspectives on the legal, ethical, historical and political complexities of deaccessioning in the 21st-century museum world where no single approach works for all.