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New York Board of Regents Adopts New Deaccessioning Rules
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The New York Board of Regents has approved new rules for deaccessioning artworks, which is the practice of disposing of works from a museum's collection. The new rules apply to museums and historical societies charted by the Board of Regents.
On Tuesday, the board adopted the amendment. It specified that at least one of ten specific criteria be met when museums deaccession a work. Among the criteria are proving that an item is inconsistent with the museum's mission, that it is redundant in the institution's collection or that a work is stolen or inauthentic.
"They're not supposed to sell under any circumstances to defray debt or operating expenses," said Lee Rosenbaum who blogs at ArtsJournal.com as CultureGrrl. "And they're not supposed to sell just to fund the curatorial spending spree of some acquisitive person currently on the staff. They're not supposed to use the collection to fund new trendy purchases without scrupulously following the criteria for disposal."
The new Board of Regents amendment also requires museums to set aside deaccessioning funds in a separate collections account to be used only for acquiring new works and for preserving existing pieces. Institutions that deaccession must also submit an annual list to the board containing all of its deaccessioned works.
"These, I assume, will be public documents that anyone can look at if they want to see what their museums are getting rid of," said Rosenbaum. "I'd like to see going forward that they also have to report plans to sell works before they happen so that the public can see that, and, if they want, weigh in on it."
Last year, several major museums opposed a proposed new law in Albany that would prevent museums from deaccessioning art to cover operating costs. Last fall, the New York Board of Regents, which oversees museums, allowed emergency regulations on deaccessioning to expire.
The board's new rules on deaccesioning permanently go into effect on June 8. Although WNYC reached out to several museums for a comment on the new amendment, only The Guggenheim responded by press time with a comment, saying it commended the board on its decision.