In Museums We Trust: Analyzing the Mission of Museums, Deaccessioning Policies, and the Public Trust

53 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2012  

Sara Tam

Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2012

Abstract

This Note demonstrates that the emphasis on collections management policies undermines a museum’s mission to provide public access to its collections and exhibitions, whether the emphasis originates from museum professional organizations, legislative and judicial action, or media criticism. It highlights the relationship between museums and the public, exploring the museum’s duty to the public, the public’s support of museums, and the public’s expectations of museums. Defining this relationship contributes significantly to shaping museum standards. This Note provides a comprehensive examination of the varying perspectives on the legal and ethical duties currently imposed on museums.

Part I provides an overview of the museum’s mission to collect and exhibit art for the benefit of the public. It also describes the historical development of museum standards and deaccessioning policies. Part II evaluates the effectiveness of current and proposed policies on deaccessioning and the use of deaccessioning sales proceeds, as well as the theories supporting those policies. Part III posits that museums can be trusted to develop and enforce standards that reflect equally the public interest in museums themselves, their collections, and the educational experiences museums offer. Therefore, this Note suggests that legislative intervention is unnecessary to protect the public interest in museums and their collections.

Keywords: deaccession, museum, public trust, mission, governance, art law

Suggested Citation

Tam, Sara, In Museums We Trust: Analyzing the Mission of Museums, Deaccessioning Policies, and the Public Trust (March 1, 2012). Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 3, p. 849, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2162763

Sara Tam (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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