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Acquisitions and Accessioning

Accessioning Activity Guide

American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums shares an activity guide to help museums explore how well its collections plan and collections management policy facilitates decisions-making about potential acquisitions.This activity is one of many designed by Museum Assessment Program (MAP) as part of the self-study process. It ranks highly with program participants and has been used in over 2,000 assessments.

Guidelines on Loans of Antiquities and Ancient Art

Association of Art Museum Directors

Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) has a report on the acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art (PDF). It provides guidelines to help museums revise their acquisition policies to reflect increasingly complex legal and ethical issues, revised in 2013.

Acquisitions, Transfers and Transitions by Zoos & Aquariums

Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) provides its Policy on Responsible Population Management: Acquisitions, Transfers and Transitions by Zoos & Aquariums. It serves as the default policy for AZA member institutions. Institutions may develop their own policies in order to address specific local concerns, but the policies must incorporate and not conflict with the AZA acquisition and disposition standards.

Publication 561: Determining the Value of Donated Property

Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website provides access to several relevant publications and forms (PDF). Publication 561: Determining the Value of Donated Property provides more detailed guidance on determining fair market value and discusses qualified appraisals.


National Park Service

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a chapter on accessioning. The 62-page chapter discusses acquisition policies, accessioning, special considerations for different types of collections, acquiring copyright, gifts, purchases, exchanges, transfers and field collections, and includes a few forms, including a receipt for property and a deed of gift form. It addresses how to accession objects found in the collection with no documentation (PDF pages 32-33), as well as how to resolve old loans if the park is located in a state without old loan legislation (PDF pages 41-44). It also discusses policies and procedures for incoming loans (PDF pages 33-41). Note that the NPS accessions loans. Although they do this to assure that loaned items receive the same level of accountability as those the NPS owns, this is not a standard practice according to the collections management policies for most museums.

Inventory and Other Special Instructions

National Park Service

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a 73-page chapter that addresses several collection management issues. Sections IV and V (PDF pages 26-31) of this 73-page chapter discuss reproductions, exhibit aids, living history items, and consumptive use. Section VII (PDF pages 36-41) discusses buying insurance for borrowed objects. Section IX (PDF pages 49-57) has information about appraisals and assigning monetary values for insurance and other purposes.

A Guide to Deeds of Gift

Society of American Archivists

Society of American Archivists provides a comprehensive list of information to be included in a deed of gift.

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