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Collection Ranking: Making deaccessions work for you

Category: Alliance Blog
A museum's collection storage room.
As museums face the reality of perpetually growing collections and ever-shrinking storage space, they must confront the difficult and often long-overdue task of collection review and refinement. Two museums will present their successful initiatives in an upcoming webinar. Photo credit: Sarah Stierch on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

For all the objects in a museum’s collection that meet the standard criteria for accessioning—they fit the museum’s mission, are in good condition, and have thorough provenance—a significant percentage meet only one (or none) of these criteria. As museums face the reality of perpetually growing collections and ever-shrinking storage space, they must confront the difficult and often long-overdue task of collection review and refinement. Deaccessioning, a heavily discussed but oftentimes difficult museum practice, may be the answer. The Collections Stewardship Professional Network of AAM (CSAAM) will host an upcoming webinar on the topic, with speakers from two museums who have found effective approaches.

Those two museums, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and History Colorado, have created similar but individualized approaches to the task of assessing their collections and setting deaccessioning goals. The Indianapolis Museum of Art embarked on an extensive collection assessment after adding a goal to its Master Plan in 2015 to better utilize its collection. Its innovative and cross-departmental endeavor, the Collection Ranking Project, has resulted in qualitative grades for all of the objects in the museum’s collection of fifty-thousand objects. To reach this point, the curatorial, registration, and collections support departments collaborated to take on necessary precursor initiatives, design the project’s structure, and determine end goals. History Colorado also designed its 2018 collection refinement project as a collaboration between the curatorial, registration, and collection staff, who developed an initiative to actively survey and refine target areas of the 225,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection. Both History Colorado and the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s projects have shared goals, including improving the quality of holdings, deaccessioning items that no longer fit the scope of collecting criteria, and updating documentation for better access to and use of collections. Ultimately, their projects will result in improved storage and stewardship of collections, and make better use of the limited resources that exist for collections care.

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Representatives from each of these museums presented their projects at the AAM Annual Meeting in New Orleans in May 2019. Now, on October 30, 2019 at 1 p.m. EST, the Collections Stewardship Committee of AAM (CSAAM) is pleased to be able to bring three of the speakers from that session together again to recreate their presentation via the online meeting program Zoom. You will be able to join Robin Lawrence, Manager of Curatorial Affairs at Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields; Jennifer Rigsby, Associate Registrar for Collections at Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields; and Alisa DiGiacomo, Director of Curatorial Services and Senior Curator at History Colorado as they recount how their projects have shaped accession and deaccession practices, and what it took to get multiple departments across the museums on board and working toward a common goal.

The Collections Stewardship Professional Network of AAM invite you to join this important, timely, and informative meeting. Robin, Jennifer, and Alisa will share their processes, experiences, and lessons learned. Participants will walk away with greater confidence in handling their own deaccessioning quandaries. Registration is open to all but limited; to reserve your spot, follow this link.

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