Acquisitions & Accessioning

UAMN Policy on Acquisitions & Accessioning

[From UAMN Collections Management Policy]

DEFINITION: “Accessioning” is the process of creating a permanent record of an object, assemblage, or lot received from one source at one time for which the Museum has custody, right, or title, and assigning a unique control number to said object, assembly, or lot.» (Note: Some departments use the term ‘cataloguing’ for this, effectively a synonym of this definition.)

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.

Objects are collected by the Museum to physically document the natural and cultural history of Alaska and the Circumpolar North, as well as specific areas of relevant research. These objects form the basis of original research, exhibition, and interpretation. By making these collections (and their accompanying data) available for study to scientists around the world we are improving the significance and research value of the collections as well as preserving them for future generations.

1.»»» Approval to accept and accession an object into a collection can only be granted by the appropriate curator and the Museum Director.
a.»»» Collections intended for the natural history departments at UAMN will be accepted by the curator.
b.»»» Collections intended for the cultural history departments may be subject to review by the Acquisitions Committee, made up of the curators and collections managers from archaeology, ethnology, and fine art, the Museum Director, the coordinator of exhibition & design, and several members of the public.
c.»»» Other than field collections made by Museum personnel, all acquisitions that have a fair market value in excess of $10,000 or require additional resources to house or maintain will require approval of the Director prior to acceptance by the Museum.
2.»»» Collections managers, in consultation with curators, are responsible for creating and maintaining, within a reasonable length of time, complete and written documentation of the process for each acquisition.

Objects accepted and accessioned into the collections must support the mission of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Objects will be accepted and accessioned into the Museum's collections when the following conditions are met:
1.»»» Objects are acquired in a proper manner that does not damage the natural or cultural resources of Alaska.
2.»»» The Museum can provide proper care, conservation, storage, and security under conditions ensuring their preservation and availability, in keeping with professional standards.
3.»»» Objects are of such quality, rarity, or of extreme intellectual value to support acquisition.
4.»»» The object does not represent an unacceptable hazard to personnel, or to other collections.
5.»»» Objects meet the criteria established in departmental Collections Plans (where applicable).
6.»»» Objects should be identified, unless received as a gift for determination by a staff member who can be relied upon to provide proper determination.
7.»»» Objects must be adequately labeled and include complete collection data.
8.»»» Objects shall be accepted only when the Curator has determined to the best of his/her ability that they have been collected and received, exported/imported, in full compliance with all laws and regulations of the country of origin, as well as those of individual states and the federal government of the United States.
a.»»» The Museum may accept objects that have been confiscated by governmental authorities and subsequently offered to the Museum by these same agents.
b.»»» These objects will be accessioned into the Museum collections only with the proper documentation of transmittal.
9.»»» Objects for which the curator anticipates no foreseeable use for exhibition, research, education, or exchange, will not be accepted.
10.»»» Objects collected on state or federal lands administered through state or federal agencies are integrated into the Museum collections in conformity with Memoranda of Agreement or with applicable regulations of the state or federal agency.
11.»»» Owners of copyright will be asked to transfer such rights upon conveyance of title. Fine Arts objects and literary works (e.g. field notes) created on or after January 1, 1978 that are subject to the Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. »» 101-702) will be considered only after a thorough review of copyright restrictions.
12.»»» The Museum will not accept any donations believed to be improperly represented as to legality, authenticity, condition, or value until such time as the original claim has been substantiated by a competent, independent authority or until the attribution or value has been changed to reflect the true character of the items offered for donation.


The Museum may acquire objects by purchase, contract, gift, bequest, exchange, field collecting, or other appropriate means subject to restrictions outlined in individual collections plans.

1.»»» Curators will identify proposed additions, following any legal or ethical procedures listed below.
2.»»» A receipt will be issued by the curator or collections manager to serve as evidence of physical transfer of the object, when appropriate.
3.»»» Depending on departmental procedure and type of acquisition, curators and collections managers will prepare legal documentation to transfer title of the object to the Museum.
4.»»» Each department will permanently maintain accession paperwork as evidence for the legal title. Records that accompany accessions may include, but are not limited to:
a.»»» Name and address of donor (includes landowner for field-generated collections on private land), seller, trading/exchanging institution, or governmental agency for which object(s) or collection is being held-in-trust.
b.»»» Copy of permit for held-in-trust objects or collections.
c.»»» Copy of permit for field-generated collections, where necessary.
d.»»» Import and export papers for object(s) or collections from foreign countries.
e.»»» Bill of sale and bill of lading.
f.»»» Any gift restrictions.
g.»»» Copyright considerations.
h.»»» Provenience and/or provenance information.
i.»»» History of object(s).
j.»»» Dates or ages of object(s).
k.»»» Valuation of object, if available (monetary, scientific, cultural, historic, etc.).
5.»»» Donations and other gifts-in-kind will be reported to the UAMN Development department for proper tracking through the UA Foundation.

Title to all objects acquired for the collections should be obtained free and clear, without restrictions as to use, exhibition, loan, or future disposition.
1.»»» If, under special circumstances, an object is accepted with restrictions or limitations, such conditions must:
a.»»» be approved by the curator and the director and,
b.»»» be stated clearly in the instrument of conveyance (e.g., Memorandum of Understanding, Memorandum of Agreement, or Trust Agreement with Alaska Native corporations) and made part of the accession records for the object.
2.»»» When title is uncertain, the curator shall make a well documented effort to ascertain the history and sources of the object and to determine that acquiring it will not contribute to illicit trade.

UAMN acquires objects for various collections, not only the permanent collections. If donations are made to the Museum that do not meet the criteria established by the curator, they may be dealt with in a number of ways, if the donor is first informed of and approves such action:
1.»»» They may be offered to the Education department or used in the departmental hands-on collection.
2.»»» They may be offered to the Exhibition & Design department as exhibit props.
3.»»» They may be used as Museum furnishing items for Museum staff.
4.»»» They may be offered to another department within the University of Alaska, including University of Alaska Foundation, UAF, UAA, or UAS.
5.»»» They may be offered to another, more appropriate museum.

In general, UAMN will not accept unsolicited donations through the mail or in person. In the case of objects of extraordinary scientific, cultural, historical, artistic, or monetary value, the curator, Museum Director, and/or Acquisitions Committee may approve such donations. Rejected objects will be returned to sender, if known. Otherwise, the rejected objects will be considered abandoned and the Museum reserves the right to dispose of such property as it sees fit. Donors are asked to contact individual departmental staff with photographs and descriptions of offered material so that curators may review the object in terms of the collecting plan for the department.