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Ethical and Legal Collections Issues

There are a number of ethical and legal issues that can arise as part of a museum’s collecting and deaccessioning activities, including the use of disposal proceeds, dealing, privacy laws, and trafficking to name a few. The Alliance has compiled this set of resources related to ethical and legal collections issues from amongst its own offerings as well as those throughout the nonprofit and museum sector.

Alliance Resources

Collections Stewardship Standards

The Alliance provides standards on collections stewardship. This document addresses the importance, purpose and assessment of collection stewardship.

Don’t Raid the Cookie Jar: Creating Early Interventions to Prevent Deaccessioning Crises

This paper, from the Alliance, summarizes the ideas and recommendations generated at “Don’t Raid the Cookie Jar: Creating Early Interventions to Prevent Deaccessioning Crises,” a convening held December 14-15, 2017 in Cambridge, MA.

Other Resources

The following resources were compiled from organizations throughout the nonprofit and museum sector. AAM reviewed and approved each one based on the organization’s authority and expertise and the resource’s usefulness related to the topic. Clicking the links below will take you off the AAM website.

“Art on Campus” Guidelines

AAMD offers its “Art on Campus” Guidelines to help museum professionals meet their academic missions while preserving collections for future generations.

Federal Historic Preservation Laws, Regulations, and Orders

The National Park Service (NPS) provides links to the full text of federal laws, regulations, and guidelines related to the management of cultural and natural resources.

Legal Issues in Museums

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Museum Handbook (PDF) has a chapter that addresses legal issues. The 62-page document includes a discussion of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), privacy laws, and publicity legislation as they impact museums. Although the FOIA applies only to federal agencies, many states have similar legislation. The chapter also includes an Access and Use Legal Action Chart that summarizes applicable legislation and suggested actions (PDF pages 28-40 and 46-54), and it also discusses copyright, patent and trademark laws (PDF pages 4-23).

Selected Sections of the Rules of the Board of Regents (8 NYCRR)

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) shares some selected sections of the Rules of the Board of Regents (8 NYCRR) that affect museums chartered in New York State.

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