Recently at my museum we have encountered a string of “digital” loans, where the artist will email or digitally send their artwork to our staff for exhibition printing and display. The artist owns copyright and will usually share the cost of printing and framing with the museum but we are running into the ethical issue of what to do with the digital item once the period of the exhibition/loan is up. Do we delete the image? Keep it on good faith that we will not use it again without the appropriate permissions? I have searched for this answer on my own and come up empty handed. The best solution I could think of would be a clause in our regular loan agreement that outlined the rules for digital loans. I would appreciate any advice or resources on this subject. In today’s world digital loans are surely only going to become more common.
Thank you in advance,
Louisiana Art & Science Museum
We are a small Museum and have not had this problem yet, but I’m sure it will become more common as you suggest. I’ll be curious what others have to say. We do not have a clause in our incoming loan agreement either.
My gut feeling would be to deleted the digital copy of the artwork at the conclusion of the exhibition (Delete it from the “trash” folder too). You also have to consider the possibility that someone may have copied the digital image and saved it with a different filename. At the conclusion of a normal loan, an item is returned; it would not be in your possession any more. This is why I would delete a digital loan. Just before deleting, I would confer with the artist. The artist may have lost his or her digital file.
The artist may have included an unprintable “digital fingerprint” in the image that was unique to the file (s)he sent you. You would not want the artwork to leak out if your digital copy suddenly appears on-line elsewhere. Outside of our Museum, my full time job for many years has been in computer programming, system analyst and database work.
David Cranston, Curator
52 Main St – PO Box 275
Lake Luzerne, NY 12846-0275
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