Reply To: Selling

Sarah Cantor

When we did a huge deaccession at a former job, it took several years to ensure that everything would go smoothly. First, our collections policy was extremely clear, both as to mission and to deaccession process; everything was carefully documented as to the why; we had outside professionals examine the objects to verify that the items were good candidates for deaccession; we made good-faith efforts to make trades with other institutions (we did not gift things to others but did inform other institutions of the auction date if we thought there were items of interest to them); we got competing bids for the auction from both Sotheby’s and Christie’s and selected the one most advantageous to us. As to contacting donors, the nature of our collection and the way it had come to us allowed us (mostly through donated funds) to contact donors in an informational way; after the sale, we could then continue to honor those original donors because we knew who had paid for what. The auction prices realized essentially created a bunch of mini-funds that we then used to purchase new items, while indicating that the purchase was possible thanks to Mr. John Doe. We also made a proactive effort to contact the media and explain our position on deaccession, why it was needed and what we stood to gain from it. Our experience was overwhelmingly positive, but it was definitely because the process was so carefully orchestrated.