Breaking Up is Hard to Do: The Ins and Outs of Deaccessioning Symposium

Sponsored by the Canadian Museums Association

November 19th and 20th, Ottawa, ON Canada

Registration is now closed.

Download the program [PDF] 

Recent deaccessioning of artifacts, works of art or entire collections from a museum or gallery has sparked an increase in the critical debate among directors, curators, artists, lawyers, the courts, politicians and the public.

What factors contribute to “good” or “bad” deaccessioning? What are the legal, ethical, and professional standards? Do they vary for each institution, or each case? Deaccessioning is the permanent removal (by sale, gift, trade or even destruction) of collections items from museums, galleries, archives, libraries and similar institutions. Done properly, it is an important part of a comprehensive collections management program and strengthens the value of its collection. Done poorly, it can bring an institution negative publicity, discourage patronage create financial problems and even lawsuits.

Many institutions within Canada are currently deaccessioning objects from their collections, or plan to do so in the near future. How they have mitigated the risks involved to ensure a successful divestment has not previously been shared.  This symposium, sponsored by the Canadian Museums Association, will address the question, “must works donated or purchased by a museum or gallery be held as public trust forever or can they be sold or given away for a variety of justifications?” If revenues are achieved, how should this money be allocated? Until recently, artworks and objects were quietly sold to enhance the care and growth of a collection. It is more transparent and controversial when artworks are being put on the market to pay current operating costs, employee salaries and even pensions.

Through a mix of presentations, round tables, open forum discussions and networking opportunities, an extensive list of topics will be addressed.