Should we keep these books?

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    • #133356

      I work at a small city historical museum. In 1986 we received a donation of 56 books. They are mainly U.S. and world history books and classic literature. They have been sitting in boxes in our storage room ever since. We are wondering what to do with them now. We don’t display them, and we don’t have room in our archives room for them. Should we keep them? They were donated by the son of our of our founders, but he is no longer in the area.

    • #133362

      I wouldn’t keep them unless they actually support your mission. I just came back from a wonderful workshop, hosted by the Dakota Territory Museum in Yankton, where this topic was brought up.

      The DTM director has a policy and procedure manual that explicitly states their mission. No donations are taken unless they support the mission, the board is told when items are donated as well as why things are or aren’t taken. It’s all very transparent and it keeps the community from using the museum as a dumping ground.

      Contact Crystal Nelson – 605-665-3898 for more information. She offered to make her manual available to those museums in the process of writing their own.

    • #133361
      Nancy Barthelemy

      I would agree that you probably shouldn’t keep them. I’ve encountered a similar problem in our collection, with a donor who gave a significant amount of money to our repository and then felt we should accept any books, however, unrelated to our collection they were. We spent a long time working out a collection policy, sent it to you, but she continues to ignore it. After many years, we finally have accepted them, set them aside and will eventually sell them. Not a good solution, but the best we could come up with in a tricky situation.

    • #133360
      Ella Rayburn

      I agree with the above comments. I have been leading our local historical society through a number of professional upgrades. A mission statement is important, but springing from that is the Collections Management Plan, also called the Scope of Collection Statement. What do you collect, how many of each, deacessioning, and much more. Focused on collections of all kinds. This becomes your sword and your shield for accepting or declining donations, as well as purchases and exchanges. It is retrospective in guiding you to correct the exhurberance of the past. The CMP must be approved by the board so all are on board (pun intended, sorry). For iffy donations that the collections committee will probably reject, we ask the donor in advance of the meeting what are his/her desires: toss, keep and sell, return.
      If you are removing objects from past acceptances, keep notes. I keep them within the minutes of the coll. committee.
      The director loves the collections committee as she can make them the bad guy instead of herself. We are happy to oblige.
      And, you can always wave the Coll. Mgmt Plan at a donor stating, “we must follow this plan and according to the plan we can’t take your stuff.”
      Finally, deaccessioning is a bit different from just removing something from the property.
      Hope this helped.

    • #133359
      Jane Dalley

      These are great comments! I’d just like to add that if you are collectiong something that doesn’t fit your mandate, you may be taking it away from someone whose mandate does include it. It’s important in a heritage community that everyone respect each other’s mandate. This is another explanation for donors of unwelcome material.

      Another more vital fact is that it costs an institution to store, preserve, exhibit and make accessible every artifact and record on its premises. There is a cost per square metre/foot that an institution pays to keep that box of unwelcome books on a shelf, and it could be taking up space that another, more relevant donation may require. In the current climate of shrinking resources, I think we have to look at the issue from an economic perspective as well as a mandate one.

      Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    • #133358

      I find that it’s a lot easier to get rid of things that don’t fit your mission if you can find someone who can use them. It’s painful to throw books out!
      If you can find a thrift shop or used book seller who will take at least some of what you have, you can recommend them to the people who want to donate books to you. Maybe donors want to take a tax deduction, but it is a rare used book that can claim very much monetary value.

    • #133357
      Ella Rayburn

      Good point. Some local libraries accept certain books for their Friends fundraisers. Ours won’t take textbooks but otherwise is willing to accept most offerings. A member of the local library sits on our Collections Committee thereby giving us input into what the library might accept into its holdings that are duplicates to us.

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