ARCS/Connecting to Collections Care - Why do we need this? Insights and Hindsights from Deaccessioning


5/17/2017 2:00 PM–3:00 PM
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Leslie B. Jones-Vice President, Museum Affairs and Curator of Decorative Arts at Cheekwood


As institutional collections begin and continue to develop, from time to time their contents need to be assessed through inventory and internal discussion. In many cases, the inevitable question finds its way into these important examinations: “why do we have this?” The process that ensues may bring up many challenges, but what is ultimately required is a sincerely professional perspective; which can be more difficult than one might think.

Depending on the age of an institution, a collecting focus can shift over time, directors and governing bodies may inject their personal preferences, curatorial strengths can cloud long-term decision making, and the weighing of an institution’s image against an institutional mission can make for a difficult understanding of answering the “why” and moving forward in an ethically-sound direction.

Once the “why” is answered, the next foreboding question is “how do we get rid of this?” Although the term “deaccession” has sometimes found disfavor, there is a reason the process exists as it can be a vital action for many collections. Taking on a deaccession project for any institution requires a great deal of forethought and planning, far beyond the identification of objects for dispersal.

In this webinar, we will address the multiple steps, and back-steps, of deaccessioning a diverse selection of objects from a collection using the experience of the 2014 to 2017 Cheekwood Permanent Collection deaccession initiative. Topics covered include assessing previous institutional deaccessions, board review and approval, collecting plan development, cross-reference of digital and hard files, institutional transfers, ethnographic materials and indigenous organizations, and donor relations.

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