Deaccessioning

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    • #132730
      Jessica Bellingham
      Participant

      Hello everyone,

      I am currently working with a small Maritime Historical Society undergoing a deaccessioning project to remove items that do not fit the mission of the museum. Obviously we would like to transfer as many of these as possible to institutions that can use them and will be able to care for them!

      Does anyone have suggestions for how to locate institutions that may want particular types of items? My process so far has been to call/email individual institutions based on their collections scope information online, but I’m not getting very many responses, and I’m really looking for a more efficient way to find interested museums. I’ve read that AAM used to have something called the Collections Exchange Center on their website, but it seems it has since been discontinued and I’m struggling to find a good alternative.

      I’ve tried to contact the Council of American Maritime Museums to see if I could post some kind of notices on their website, but to no avail. I’ve also considered posting descriptions of the items we’d like to deaccession on a forum-type discussion board somewhere, but I am somewhat hesitant about this approach. If anyone has any suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated! How have you found institutions for the transfer of your deaccessions?

    • #132740
      Ron Kley
      Participant

      Hi Jessica —

      It sounds as if your institution has made a wise decision, and it seems as if you’ve taken very appropriate steps in pursuit of their objectives. I’m surprised that the response has not been more poaitive.

      My only suggestion is that you’d probably receive a better response if (at a cost of sgnificantly greater time and effort) you could be more specific in providing information about the nature of the material being deaccessioned (papers, paintings, photos, wreck fragments, …etc.) and its geographic relationships (east/west/gulf coast, Great Lakes…etc.

      Most museums dealing with maritime (or other) history have narrowed their focus over time with respect to the historical period, the geographic area, and/or the types of activity that they choose to collect, preserve and interpret. Consequently, the prospect of acquiring generic “old stuff” or “old maritime stuff” isn’t likely to generate great enthusiasm unless there’s reason to believe that the material fits well into their own mission and scope. (That, after all, is precisely why your deaccessioning project is a wise and appropriate initiative.)

      I can’t guarantee, but I’d be pretty confident in predicting that if you were to touch base with the same organizations that you’ve previously contacted, and offer more specific information about the artifacts, documents, etc. that your institution has to offer, you’d be receiving more encouragng and more enthusiastic feedback from places that would be pleased to provide a good home for some of your institution’s surplus material.

      Good Luck!!

      Ron Kley

    • #132739
      Judi Fergus
      Member

      I often find myself wanting to offer to other institutions books and artifacts that don’t fit our mission.  I wish that there was a forum such as this one to list these.

      Judi Fergus

      Director

      Moore Methodist Museum, Archives, and Library

    • #132738
      Lois J Wolf
      Participant

      Jessica, I’m in an area in N. Ohio by Lake Erie that has several Maritime museums.  If you have a list that you could attach to an email, I would be willing to pass it on to at least two other museums.  I am not with a maritime museum.

    • #132737
      Janice Klein
      Member

      Actually there have been a number of “collections exchanges” established over the last few years.   I’m not sure that any of them are still in existence.    I don’t know if we don’t have the right system to keep things up to date or what.    It would be a great grant project…

       

       

    • #132736
      Jessica Bellingham
      Participant

      Ron, I think your point is excellent. It is problematic that some of the items are quite generic ‘surplus’ type maritime objects. In every email I’ve sent I have included a list of objects including their catalog entry, dimensions, etc., but sometimes our own information is quite limited, and as you said, it uses a lot of time and energy to comprehensively research something that won’t be in the collection for much longer. I recognize that some of the more generic items may need to be auctioned, but I like to view that as my last-resort option.

      Lois, thank you for your offer; I am now working on compiling a list of Maritime museums using CAMM’s website, and will be trying to contact some more institutions. One issue also is geographic location – our west coast location may make it difficult to transport fragile ship models, etc. across the country without considerable expense.

      Janice, you’re right. The UK Museums Association has a nice resource for deaccessioning (http://www.museumsassociation.org/collections/find-an-object), and it would be great to see something akin to that emerge here.

      I am hoping to complete my Master’s thesis on some aspect of deaccessioning for small institutions. Hopefully I can help generate some solutions and maybe make a small impact! Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses.

    • #132735
      Rose McMahon
      Member

      Yes, part of the UK’s Deaccessioning procedure is that the items must be offered to the museum community at large, through the pages of the Museums Journal. You never know – that mangke might just be the very thing another curator is looking for to complete a project.

      Doesn’t the Association of American Museums facilitate this through the pages of its professional journal?

       

      Rose McMahon

       

    • #132734

      Sad to say, I think this situation is becoming quite common.  Museums simply don’t have the personnel and space to take on more collection items unless they fit very narrow criteria.  I understand that governments – and our own internal ethics – require that deaccessioned items be offered to other museums first, but once you have made a serious effort, you are justified in going to the private sector.  Even then, the going may be hard.  Auction  houses will want to “cherry-pick,” that is, take the good stuff and not the rest.  E-bay and gift-shop sales are, perhaps, the last resort.

    • #132733
      Tracy Miller
      Member

      Hi Jessica,

      I am an archaeology lab director and collections manager and have, unfortunately, had to work out deaccessioning plans a few times in the past.  If you cannot find other museums or historic societies to take the deaccessioned items, another alternative might be to put together “educational” kits or displays of some of those items that permanently go to local schools, colleges, or even local libraries.  Kind regards, Tracy Miller

    • #132732

      Great Idea Tracy!  Could also help recruit interns.  Ed Flesch

    • #132731

      Hi Jessica,

       

      Have you tried north of the border – museums in Canada?

      Iona

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