Deaccessioning & Disposal

[From the UAMN Collections Management Policy]

DEFINITION: "Deaccessioning" is the process used to remove permanently an object from the Museum’s collection or to document the reasons for an involuntary removal (one required by law or due to circumstances not controlled by the Museum).
“Disposal” is the official mode of transferal.

Accessioned objects are held in perpetuity as long as:
• They support the Museum mission statement
• They retain physical integrity, their identity, and their authenticity.
• They can be properly stored, preserved, and used.

Deaccessioning, when carried out in an appropriate manner and with thoughtful consideration, is an integral part of responsible collections management. This view is endorsed by the University of Alaska Museum of the North in its Institutional Code of Ethics and is based on the ethical codes of national and international museum professional organizations.

1. Only the curator of a collection, with the concurrence of the Acquisitions Committee if appropriate, has the authority to approve deaccessions from their collection.
a. In the case of an object with a market value under $10,000, curators make the decision to deaccession in consultation with the Director.
b. In the case of an object with a market value over $10,000, the other curators must be informed, and an outside, independent appraisal will be required.
c. In the case of objects held in trust but for which the Museum does not hold title, decisions will be made pursuant to federal statute or applicable MOA.
2. Collections managers, in collaboration with the curator, shall be responsible for researching all legal and ethical considerations surrounding a proposed deaccession.
3. Collections managers, in consultation with the curator, are responsible for maintaining all written documentation regarding the deaccession and disposal process.
4. Only the curator and Director, and Acquisitions Committee if appropriate, will approve a mode of disposal.

1. The Museum will not remove from its collection by any means of disposal, any item of prime historical, cultural, or scientific value as determined by the curator, unless instructed by the Director of the Museum and approved by the Chancellor.
2. Objects may be considered for deaccessioning under one or more of the following circumstances:
a. The object does not support the mission of the Museum.
b. Inadequate documentation or absence of documentation critically reduces the cultural or scientific value or significance of the object.
c. The object cannot be preserved, or has deteriorated and is no longer of any cultural or scientific value.
d. The object represents an unacceptable hazard to personnel, or to other collections.
e. The object has been approved for repatriation under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
f. The Museum is instructed to deaccession the object by the owner, e.g., a federal agency that owns archaeological collections from land it manages.
g. The object has been destroyed or damaged to the extent that it no longer conforms to the Acquisitions & Accessioning criteria in section VI., above.

1. Disposal of collections through sale, trade, or research activities is solely for the advancement of the Museum’s mission. Any object that has been selected and approved by the curator and Director for deaccessioning should be transferred or disposed of as follows (this list is not hierarchical and does not imply an order to follow):
a. Exchange or Donation: Museums or educational institutions should be contacted regarding the suitability of the items for exchange or donation depending on the nature of the items.
b. Transfer: Consideration will be given to placing the object in the Museum Education Collection, or teaching collections in other departments of the University, or other educational institutions.
c. Sale: In accordance with American Association of Museum policy, specimens in the collection may be used to enhance the overall quality of the collection by deaccessioning for sale.
i. Deaccessioning of an object for sale is a serious matter that should only be undertaken after considerable deliberation. Among the issues to be taken into consideration are: the object’s potential use in research, education and exhibition, the possible impact of deaccession on future donations, and the object’s status under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.
ii. Proceeds from the sale of non-living collections are to be used consistent with the established standards of the Museum’s discipline, but in no event shall they be used for anything other than acquisition or direct care of collections.
iii. Except in instances where deviation is intended to advance an appropriate public benefit, such as deaccessioning for sale to another public museum, objects deaccessioned for sale will be disposed of by the most profitable means.
iv. Objects purchased with money acquired from the sale of collection material may be attributed to the original donor(s).
d. Destruction: If the object cannot be disposed of in any of the above manners, it shall be destroyed by the curator or his/her designee. Destruction is defined as the obliteration of an object or specimen by physical or mechanical means. No remains of the object may be retained by University staff or affiliated parties. Prior to destruction, the object will be evaluated to ascertain whether it contains any hazardous materials. If any hazardous materials exist, the object will be destroyed in accordance with all federal or state laws and/or university environmental health and safety procedures. The remains of the object must be placed in a University or Museum garbage receptacle, unless constituent parts can be considered hazardous materials. Hazardous materials must be disposed of through the Operations Manager. This disposal method must be both documented and witnessed.
2. Deaccessioned objects will not be given, exchanged, or sold privately to employees of the Museum or the University of Alaska, members of the governing authorities or to their representatives, members of Museum support groups, or volunteers.
3. The Museum is required by the Internal Revenue Service to hold donations for a minimum of three years in consideration for donors making a declaration for tax purposes.
4. If donor-imposed conditions restrict disposal, the Museum may offer the object to the donor or donor’s family in lieu of disposal.

1. The curator will identify an object for deaccession/disposal based on the criteria above.
2. The collections manager will investigate all legal and ethical considerations surrounding the proposed object(s).
a. The Museum must hold free and clear title to the object.
b. There must be no restrictions placed on the use of the object (e.g. copyright, MOA/MOU, trust agreements, donor-imposed restriction, etc.)
3. As a courtesy, reasonable efforts will be made to contact donors or their heirs, and living artists prior to the deaccessioning of objects from the Museum’s collections.
4. The collections manager will prepare all required paperwork, including a Deaccession & Disposal form.
5. The curator will approve and obtain approval from additional personnel, when necessary (e.g. other curators, Director, Acquisitions Committee, etc.).
6. The curator will determine the method of disposal, taking into account the reason for deaccessioning.
7. The collections manager will remove or cross-out the UAMN catalog or accession number from the object prior to disposal.
8. The collections manager will modify catalog and accession files and database entries to reflect the change in status of the object and the change in monetary value, if any, for the collection; the records will not be deleted or removed but maintained intact for future reference.
9. The collections manager will place all documentation in the proper departmental files, where they will remain as part of the permanent record.

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