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Clean House to Survive? Museums Confront Their Crowded Basements - The New York Times
MoMA regularly culls its collection and in 2017 sold off a major Léger to the Houston art museum. Yet, it too is in the midst of yet another costly renovation (price tag $400 million) to be able to exhibit more of its ever growing collection.

Part of the problem is that acquiring new things is far easier, and more glamorous, than getting rid of old ones. Deaccessioning, the formal term for disposing of an art object, is a careful, cumbersome process, requiring several levels of curatorial, administrative and board approval. Museum directors who try to clean out their basements often confront restrictive donor agreements and industry guidelines that treat collections as public trusts.
museums  collections  deaccessioning  erasure  maintenance  care  storage 
march 2019 by shannon_mattern
I can’t get this out of my head: non-archivist academic talking about libraries “dumping” microforms. Here’s what happens in libraries when we jettison equipment and material that no one is using to make room for something in demand or providing special value to the collection....

Before books, microforms, serials, videotapes, etc. go to the great beyond, they’re offered to other libraries, including prison libraries and libraries in other countries.
archives  deaccessioning  deleting  erasure 
february 2019 by shannon_mattern
Why Deaccessioning Is Never a Straight Story – Canadian Art
“One of the chief findings of our book is that deaccessioning has been an essential part of museum practice since the dawn of the museum experiment in the 17th century,” Gammon says. “As curators came to manage the effect of multiple private collections congregating in a growing public collection, they often came to realize they needed to employ the power of deaccessions in order to weed and refine the collection over time to ensure it has coherence and is improving through these evolutionary stages of growth.”

Even the Canadian Museums Association makes a clear case for weeding collections regularly. “There is nothing wrong inherently about deaccessioning!” the CMA’s guidelines state. “Deaccessioning is a necessary and appropriate tool in the collections management for any museum or gallery. Curatorially motivated disposal is an integral part of collection management and a way for a museum or gallery to refine its collection.”

Making deaccession decisions based on auction value, rather than curatorial importance, is like being thirsty in a lifeboat. The temptation to drink seawater is attractive, but it will hasten your demise. And there are a lot of museums at danger of drinking the seawater.

So if deaccessioning is an important part of museum practice going back to the 17th century, how did it get such a bad name in recent years? In short, the last three decades of the 20th century have put significantly more pressure on leading museums to deaccession works in order to simply stay solvent and afloat—these pressures including decreased government funding, a detrimental (in the U.S.) tax reform act and a booming art market.
collections  museums  libraries  deaccessioning  erasure 
august 2018 by shannon_mattern
The Totality of True Propositions (Before) (2008-2009) | Limn
Julien Prévieux’s artwork The Totality of True Proposition (Before) (2008–2009) is a bookcase surrounded by huge diagrams. The bookcase contains numerous books and user’s guides that have been deemed obsolete by French librarians and slated for destruction. ...

Overlooked, scorned, and on the sidelines of state-of-the-art knowledge, these books, once reorganized in a library of linguistic, technical, and historical puzzles, contain knowledge that is no longer germane, but still makes sense on an ironic and poetic level. A particular section of this knowledge freezer contains books that forecast what tomorrow would be, such as Future Shock, the famous bestseller written by Alvin Toffler in 1970.
libraries  library_art  deaccessioning  dead_media  books  epistemology  intellectual_furnishings  intellectual_history 
march 2016 by shannon_mattern
The Uncataloged Museum: Do You Need Every Single Thing?
I do want to propose that perhaps, local history museums own too many meaningless objects--and that paying attention to meaningful objects will give us more time, more money, and more connections to our community.
When collecting started, in 1892, all the objects were collected with provenance—a way of enhancing and reinforcing a sort of ancestor worship, I suspect. Susan’s been on staff for 20 years and she describes the issue as “stuff vs. meaningful stuff.” As an organization, they were facing decades of collecting from curators who, for whatever reason, didn’t ask the questions that would provide the context for the object.
For the last ten years, the staff has gone back and looked at every single object, trying to find, through research, what meanings there are for each object—who owned, who used it, how it compares to others. They have looked at 18000 objects and deaccessioned 6000 of them.
museums  collections  historymuseums  localhistory  deaccessioning 
december 2011 by miaridge
Ithaka Print Collections Decision-Support Tool
The “What to Withdraw” report evaluates the continuing rationales for print preservation in a digital age and scientifically analyzes the requirements necessary in order to meet community preservation needs. It concludes that journals that are adequately digitized and preserved in digital form, contain few images, and are preserved in an appropriate number of print repositories, may be safely withdrawn from library collections without threatening their preservation. To assist librarians with such collections management decisions, Ithaka S+R is developing a decision-support tool to apply the logic of the "What to Withdraw" report. The current version of this tool is now available and can be used by librarians to determine which JSTOR-digitized journals meet the "What to Withdraw" criteria and therefore may be responsibly deaccessioned in print form by any library.
collection  collection_development  deaccessioning  withdrawal  print  ithaka  libraries 
september 2011 by jpom
OpenCulture » Blog Archive » A Question of Significance
Reading RT @NickPoole1 'A Question of Significance' How museums can give themselves permission to move on
The orthodoxy of practice, written as it was in much wealtheir times, demands that every item is assessed and accessioned, considered, weighed and measured before it can be got rid of, and that even then ‘getting rid of stuff’ has to be a laborious and documented process of ‘moving it on to another museum’.

It is hard to overstate the urgency finding a solution to this problem, of absolving ourselves of all but the most necessary rigours of accountability and of proactively and comprehensively getting rid of a large proportion of the Collections in public ownership. Why? Because museums are about to come under the policy purview of an organisation (the Arts Council) that simply will not understand why so much money is being put into looking after things that the majority of people will never see.  museums  collections  significance  deaccessioning  uk  politics  cuts 
february 2011 by miaridge
Clearing House: London Museum Asks Public What to Pitch - TIME
If you're the type of person who has trouble throwing anything out, then the job of collections reviewer at the University College London's museums might not be for you. The college is embarking upon a purge of its assorted collections, some 250,000 items in total, only 2% of which are currently on display. A gargantuan task, surely, but the college is not doing it on its own — officials have taken the unusual step of opening the process up to the public. They're asking visitors what they should keep, what they should give away to other museums — one institution's trash is another's treasure — or, as a last resort, what they should just throw away.
museum  crowdsourcing  deaccessioning  collections 
december 2009 by danamuses

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