Having been a museum trustee, a professional staff member and a collector/accumulator for many years, I feel that the best policy is one that allows board members and/or staff members to pursue individual collecting interests with a strictly enforced provision for full disclosure of what those interests are, and a provision that any acquisitions in areas overlapping those of institutional interest MUST be reported immediately and offered to the institution on an “at cost” basis.
To forbid any such collecting activity would not only be an infringement of individual legal rights, but it would deprive the institution of the collectors’ discriminating eyes and their ability to take advantage of ad hoc opportunities to acquire items appropriate for the institution’s collections. The institution, however, should be under no obligation to accept items simply because s ataff or board member has purchased something with the institution’s interest in mind.
It may be appropriate to incorporate a policy provision giving the institution an ongoing “first-refusal” right if an item originally offered to and declined by the institution should subsequently be offered for sale by the collector
There is a need for safeguards in any such policy, but the best safeguard is one of total transparency, full disclosure and strict enforcement.