Reply To: Disposal of non accessioned collection items.

Ron Kley

There’s are significant distinctions to be drawn between the disposition of items that have been accepted into a museum collection via a signed deed of gift or equivalent document, items “deposited” with a museum for possible inclusion in a collection but never formally accepted, and items simply “left at the doorstep” without any knowledge or permission of the institution. 

Items of the first sort can be disposed of in accordance with established deaccessioning po;licy and procedure, since they are the legal property of the institution.

Items of the second type may be subject to abandoned property laws that differ from state to state unless the deposit form is structured as a contract that specifically gives the institution the right to assume ownership and undertake disposition of items that are neither wanted by the institution nor reclaimed by the depositor within a specified period of time.

Items of the third type should probably be treated as “lost and found” objects subject to the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies.  Under those circumstances the museum, as a non-profit public service entity, may be able to claim any desirable items if they are not reclaimed by a verifiable owner.