Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Selling the Family Jewels

Responding to a recent series of incidents in which a number of universities responding to financial crises by selling off (or attempting to sell off) their museum collections, the American Association of Museums has made a number of revisions to its Accreditation Program that are intending to emphasize the role, value, and use of the collections, and related museum ethics and standards. In the words of AAM, "the revised policy requires parent organizations--college/university, government, corporate foundation, state historical society operating multiple sites, etc.--of accredited museums to include language in a required statement of support which specifically prohibits museum collections from being considered as disposable assets."

The changes have been welcomed by the Association of Academic Museums & Galleries and are undoubtably a good thing - as regular readers of this blog will be aware, the failure of institutions to face up to the responsibilities associated with collections stewardship is a regular source of irritation to me - they are not just "another asset" and you would have to be an idiot to think otherwise. However, I can't help thinking that the sort of institution that would sell off all or part of its collections is unlikely to bother itself overmuch about whether its collections were accredited in the first place.

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