Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"The world didn't come to an end"

LONDON. The title makes reference to the experience to date of the UK Museum Association's ("MA") "relaxed ethical stance" on deaccessioning since its adoption in 2007. The UK's experience illustrates how "slippery slope" arguments against taking this position on deaccessioning don't necessarily hold true, at least not in all cases. In an article in The Art Newspaper, the MA's head of policy Maurice Davies defended the organization's stance against the strong criticisms and concerns of museum directors worldwide who called for greater safeguards to prevent the dissipation of public collections. The deaccessioning debate has resurfaced recently in the UK with the announcement of the seminar on the subject to take place at the National Gallery on May 10, 2011. To read more about the proposed schemes that will be debated click here.

The current restrictions in the UK are "voluntary and depend largely on moral persuasion" which may make the "deaccessioning police," as Donn Zaretsky calls the contingent, uneasy but in my view, are preferable to blanket prohibitions against deaccessioning (for example, to cover operating expenses) that place little, if any, faith in museum trustees to do their jobs. Yes deaccessioning practices should not be left unchecked but checks should be flexible enough to consider proposed sales on a case-by-case basis. The expert panel idea has been proposed before (I was a fan, as was Judith Dobrznski) but I appreciate the comments made in the article that at least in the UK, there are enough committees as it is and plus, an expert panel would require the enactment of legislation.

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