Collections Policy


 
What you will find on this page

What is a Collections Policy and why do I need one??

Another reason to have a Collections Policy... Declining Gracefully

A sample collection policy from the Aurora Regional Fire Museum


What is a Collections Policy and why do I need one??

 

Philosophy of collecting for a regional museum.
Remember a museum should not be a community attic....

• Museums must have a mission statement - this sets limits by area, time, type, etc.

• This helps spell out what a museum wants and doesn't want & thus these limits save the museum money, time, space, etc...

• Sample mission statement: "The Gracen County Historical Society as a nonprofit has as a primary purpose collection, preservation, and display historic, and geographic artifacts which document Gracen Counties relationship with Texas, the South, and the United States... We are dedicated to conservation, research, education, and community service...."

• What about current objects? Some museums only collects items from more than 50 years back from present date - BUT remember the things we did and used today are going to be “history” tomorrow”!?

• You must set limits & do not be afraid to deaccession.

• You must form a written collections policy.

Collection management basics

• Once an item comes into the museum it is NOT to be used again!

• As an IRS 501-c3 organization you have a "fiduciary responsibility" of the artifact!

• You must adequately document (with policies, forms & records) and care for that item under penalty of law!!!!

• Items should always be stored in the same position they were made to be used in.

• Be aware of heat, light, humidity, sun, bugs & rodents, etc... and especially dramatic changes in the above.

•  AVOID objects donated as a "conditional gift" or "indefinite gift". (Exceptions can be made on case by case basis) - but remember, no matter how long the loan remains, the museum does not own object and the donors or their heirs may appear at any time to claim loans. Also note - with this gift, the Museum has all the liability and none of the authority to manage the loaned artifact.)


•  Acceptance of an object means that the museum will accrue both the cost and the responsibility of cataloging, storing, exhibiting, conserving, and preserving the object.

 

Notes from the Fire Museum Network Seminar 1993 - Dallas TX.



Another reason to have a Collections Policy... Declining Gracefully

You may not think it now, but there ARE times when you simply must decline the offer of an object. A collections policy will help you in “declining gracefully.”

Objects for the space of politeness or diplomacy places an expensive burden on staff, space and resources.... To avoid this dilemma - have a well planned and detailed "Collections Management Policy"

It is much "safer" (from a public relations point of view) if the decisions of the collections accession committee is "Unanimous".

Five most common situations to decline a donation:

1. Object is out of the museums scope (wrong subject, geographic area, etc...) - Provide alternative museums who might be interested.

2. Duplicate(s) already in collection - Provide proposed donor with a list of alternative museums who might be interested.

3. Poor condition - Be wary of accepting items that may tax space and conservation resources - see if the donor will fund the conservation.

4. Large Size - Again, be wary of items that may tax storage and display space.

5. "Conditional gift" & "Permanent loan" - A Curatorial nightmare - only accept if the conditions are reasonable - (keep in close correspondence) - DO NOT accept if the conditions are, "This item must always be on display". Special exceptions may be made after careful consideration and a unanimous vote of the collections committee.

Notes from "Collections Manager" newsletter - April 1989

 


Here is a copy of a collections policy I developed for the Aurora Regional Fire Museum in Aurora, IL. It is a hybrid of policies from many museums, and it was then tailored to the special needs of the fire museum community. Any policy you develop should be approved approved by the museum's Board of Directors.

Aurora Regional Fire Museum's Collection Policy
Table of Contents

 

Mission Statement

Collections Scope
Specific Areas of Collection
Three categories of the Collection

Additional Criteria for Acceptance or Rejection
Size of Collection
Size of Object
Donor's restrictions, conditions or encumbrances

Accession Procedure

Objects - Accession Procedure

Cataloging Procedure

Conservation - Care and Handling

Public Access to Collection

In-Coming Loans
Terms
Care
Packing & Shipping
Insurance
Reproduction
Credit

Out-Going Loans
Terms
Care
Packing & Shipping
Insurance
Reproduction
Credit

Deaccession Policy

Deaccession Procedure

Disposition Procedure

Accession / Collection Ethics Policy
Management, Maintenance & Conservation
Acquisition & Disposal
Appraisals
Truth in Presentation
Personal Collecting & Dealing

 


Aurora Regional Fire Museum- Mission (Purpose) Statement:

The Aurora Fire Station Preservation Corp. is a nonprofit, tax exempt organization whose purpose is to preserve the old Aurora Central Fire Station, and renovate it for use as the charitable and educational Aurora Regional Fire Museum. This museum will preserve and exhibit the artifacts and history of Aurora and surrounding area fire departments, as well as teach and promote fire safety and prevention.

 

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Collections Scope

The scope of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's collection is ultimately dictated by our above mission statement.

Specific Areas of Collection:
• Aurora Fire Department history and artifacts (and particularly those relating to the history of Aurora's Central Fire Station.

• Aurora "Region" (Northern Illinois) Fire Department history and artifacts.

• Representative objects which illustrate the history of the fire service in general.

Objects in each specific "Area of Collection" may fall into one of three categories. A donation may not always stay classified in one specific category due to changing times and interests.

A. Primary Exhibit Category:
These objects, the best quality and condition available, relate directly to one or more of the museum's areas of collection and are primarily used for exhibitions. They are beneficial to the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's mission statement.

B. Secondary Exhibit Category:
These are often fine objects but may be duplicative or in lesser condition. They have a very definite teaching quality and are used for exhibitions, comparative study, for special "hands-on" programs, or can be loaned to other museums and institutions.

C. Expendable Category:
These items are acceptable to the extent that they may be utilized to acquire artifacts or other permanent materials to fill out its permanent or secondary collections.

Objects will be evaluated as to their relevance in any or all of the above stated "Areas of Collection", and/or their anticipated classification in either the "Primary", "Secondary", or "Expendable" category.

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Additional Criteria for Acceptance or Rejection

Size of Collection:
The "Aurora region (Northern Illinois)" and/or the "representative objects from the general fire service" area(s) of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's permanent collection should not exceed a reasonable and practical number of similarly designed, constructed, or used objects,originating from a specific group or user, except when those objects are specifically designated for "Secondary" or "Expendable Collections".

Size of Object:
Any object requiring a storage or display area larger that 4 cubic feet must be reviewed and accepted by a majority vote of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors.

Condition of Object:
All objects entering the Aurora Regional Fire Museum must be in a condition that they will not cause injury or damage to other objects in the collection, storage or display facilities, or individuals working at or visiting the museum.

Donor's restrictions, conditions or encumbrances:
Generally all objects entering the Aurora Regional Fire Museum collection shall be without any restrictions conditions, or encumbrances. The Aurora Regional Fire Museum reserves the right to use all gifts in the manner which best serves the museum and the museum's mission statement. Restrictions, conditions, or encumbrances may be accepted by a majority vote of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors in specific special cases.

 

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Accession Procedure

New Objects - Accession Procedure:
The Curator or any Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board Member may temporarily accept objects for "accession consideration", provided they fill out and have signed by prospective donor a temporary receipt form notifying them of the "Collection Procedure". The accepting museum individual must also notify the Curator and/or the "Accessions Committee" of the donation.

Objects temporarily accepted for "accession consideration", shall not be considered part of the "permanent" collection of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum until they meet the requirements set forth in the "Collection Policy" and/or they gain the majority approval of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors. The owners of the objects which fail to gain acceptance will be notified and they have the option of removing the item in 30 days of that notification. Failure of the owner to do so - provides the Aurora Regional Fire Museum the right to dispose of those objects in any manner it sees fit.

The Curator shall head an "Accessions Committee" whose responsibilities will include accepting and/or rejecting a proposed donation. The Curator and the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's Board of Directors shall have joint authority on appointments to the Accessions Committee.

Providing the donation meets the requirements set forth in the "Collection Policy", a simple majority vote by the Curator and the Accessions Committee, accepts an object into the "permanent" collection of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum.

In special cases, when the object fails to meet one or more of the standards set forth in the "Collection Policy" then it may be accepted by a majority vote of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors. The Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors reserves the right to temporarily suspend the "Collection Policy" by a majority vote in special cases.

The Curator and the Accessions Committee shall make a report to the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors listing the objects proposed for accession, those accepted and rejected, and those requiring a decision by the full Board of Directors.

The Curator and the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's Board of Directors shall have joint authority on establishment, interpretation, and modification of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's "Collection Policy".

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Cataloging Procedure

The Curator and/or any other designated, trained, member shall catalog all newly accessed objects in accordance with the specific catalog procedures listed in the "Cataloging Procedure" addendum to this policy.

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Conservation - Care and Handling

Preservation of the "collection", (artifacts, photographs, archive materials, ephemera, and/or general history), is part of the ARFM's mission statement and as such we will strive to meet professional standards regarding handling, storage, and displaying. Any cleaning, repair, or artifact conservation must be done under the direction and/or with the approval of the Curator and the Board of Directors and in keeping with professionally accepted standards.

• See Care and Handling Procedure in Addendum (not reproduced on this website)

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Public Access to Collection

The ARFM must maintain a secure environment to protect the collections, however every attempt will be made to allow the public "special access" to the collections not currently on display. The Curator, or their designated representative, must approve and Supervise all requests for special access. When requested, museums, fire departments, former Aurora "region" firefighters (or their decedents) and/or other institutions, will be allowed free access to the museum's collection. All other requests will be granted on a case by case basis and for bonified research purposes only, and the ARFM reserves the rights to charge a "service fee".

 

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In-Coming Loans

Terms:
All ARFM incoming loans must be for periods of no longer than one year. In such special cases where a loan is desired for longer than one year, the loan agreement must be renewed and resigned by both the lender and the ARFM.

Care:
The ARFM will exercise the same care with respect to in-coming loaned objects as it does to its own museum collection. Objects will be protected from fire, theft, mishandling, dirt, extremes of light, temperature and humidity. Should loss, damage, or deterioration occur, the lender will be immediately notified in detail as to the extent of the loss, damage, or deterioration.

Packing & Shipping :
The ARFM agrees to pay all costs for packing, crating, and transportation, unless otherwise agreed upon by the lender. Objects will be returned to the lender carefully packed in the same manner as received. All packing and unpacking will be done by experienced personnel.

Insurance:
The lender will continue to insure the objects under the lender's policy unless otherwise agreed upon by both the ARFM and the lender .

Reproduction:
The ARFM may photograph any loaned object for use in its own publications, records, research, and programs, unless otherwise stated in writing by the lender.

Credit:
When the loaned items, or information regarding the loaned items is used in exhibitions or publicity, the ARFM will give appropriate credit to the lender. The lender will receive a copy of any publication, publicity or catalog in which the loaned items, or information regarding the loaned items, is used.

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Out-Going Loans

The ARFM only loans items from its collections to museums historical societies, libraries, schools, and institutions which the ARFM feels will comply with the conditions stated following. Fragile objects, frequently used objects, or objects currently on exhibit are generally not considered for loan.

Terms:
All ARFM out-going loans must be for periods of no longer than one year. In such special cases where a loan is desired for longer than one year, the loan agreement must be renewed and resigned by both the ARFM and the borrower.

Care:
The borrowing institution will exercise the same care with respect to in-coming loaned objects as it does to its own museum collection. Objects will be protected from fire, theft, mishandling, dirt, extremes of light, temperature and humidity. Should loss, damage, or deterioration be noted, the borrowing institution will immediately notify the ARFM in detail.

Packing & Shipping:
The borrowing institution agrees to pay all costs for packing, crating, and transportation, unless otherwise agreed upon by the lender. Objects will be returned to the lender carefully packed in the same manner as received form the ARFM. All packing and unpacking will be done by experienced personnel.

Insurance:
The borrowing institution will insure the objects under their policy unless otherwise agreed upon by both the ARFM and the borrowing institution .

Reproduction:
The ARFM grants the borrowing institution permission to photograph any loaned object for use in its own publications, research, records, and educational programs, unless otherwise stated in writing.

Credit:
When the loaned items, or information regarding the loaned items is used in exhibitions or publicity, the borrowing institution will give appropriate credit to the ARFM. The ARFM will receive a copy of any publication, publicity or catalog in which the loaned items, or information regarding the loaned items is used.

 

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Deaccession Policy

Objects left for consideration, and objects now in the permanent collection, which fail to meet the requirements set forth in the "Collection Policy" and/or fail to gain the majority approval of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors, may be considered for deaccessioning.

Specific reasons for deaccessioning may include:

• Object is not consistent with the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's "Mission" or "Collection Statements".

• Object is a duplicate - costly in space to display or store.

• Object in poor condition. (If accepted, might request owner to get an appraisal for restoration. Might be a hardship on museum if object is accepted.)

• Object might be of excessive size. (If to be accepted, donor might be recruited to help raise funds for proper storage. Hardship for museum to have to store.)

• Object is not typical of the kind or style used in Aurora and/or Northern Illinois fire departments.
• Object is dangerous or may cause damage to: other objects in the collection, storage or display facilities, or individuals working at or visiting the museum.

• Object is/was donated is a "conditional gift" or "indefinite gift". (Exceptions can be made on case by case basis)

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Deaccession Procedure

The Curator or a member of the Accessions Committee may present to the Aurora Regional Fire Museum Board of Directors a proposal for deaccessioning and their recommendations for the object's disposition. The ultimate decision for an object's deaccession and disposition must be made by a majority vote of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's Board of Directors.

 

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Disposition Procedure

• When disposing of an object, the ARFM must first determine that it has the legal right to do so, by a searching its own records to locate a "Deed of Gift Agreement" and/or attempt to locate the object's original owner or donor.

• If the object for disposition is of local and historical value - then it shall be first offered to museums, fire departments, or institutions in the objects "local area".

• If the object for disposition has no localized area but is of historical value - then it shall be first offered to any interested museum (particularly fire museum), fire department, or other institution.

• If the object for disposition has no significant localized area, is of little historical value, and/or if no museum, fire department, or institution is interested in obtaining the object for their "permanent" collection - then the object shall be sold (according the the Aurora Regional Fire Museum's Board of Directors discretion) at a sale or auction to the highest bidder, with all proceeds from the sale going to the ARFM.

• A permanent record of the objects deaccession and subsequent disposition will be kept on file at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum as part of the other "permanent collection records"

 

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Accession / Collection Ethics Policy


Management, Maintenance & Conservation:
The "collection", (artifacts, photographs, archive materials and/or ephemera) is an essential part of the collective fabric of the Aurora Regional Fire Museum. The Museum's first obligation is to its collection. The ARFM will conduct periodic evaluations of the collection paying special attention to condition and the need for general or special maintenance. All physical care for the collection will be in keeping with professionally accepted standards.


Acquisition & Disposal:
The ARFM's collection and exhibits will be influenced by changes in cultural and educational trends, museum policy, and desire to improve or upgrade collections, the Aurora Regional Fire Museum will use its mission statement and collections policy as guides in making any decisions regarding acquisitions and disposals. Objects will be kept as long as they retain their physical integrity, authenticity and usefulness for the ARFM's purpose. The museum will follow our formal Collections policy regarding the acquisition and disposal of objects.


Appraisals:
Although all donations are tax deductible. The donor bears all responsibility for valuation, however, the ARFM will render assistance within the legal limits.

Any appraisal or authentication must represent an honest and objective judgment and must include an indication of how the determination was made.


Truth in Presentation:
The Aurora Regional Fire Museum will responsibly use its collections for the creation and dissemination of knowledge with intellectual honesty and objectivity. The Museum may address a wide variety of social, political, artistic or scientific issues - all to be approached objectively and without prejudice. The Museum will use every effort to ensure that exhibits are honest and objective and do not perpetuate myths or stereotypes.


Personal Collecting & Dealing:
Individuals acquiring, collecting and owning objects can enhance professional knowledge and judgment. However, the ARFM has a policy wherein no museum volunteer or employee may compete with the museum in any personal collecting activity or use a museum affiliation to promote their personal collecting activities. Persons affiliated with the ARFM will not acquire objects from the collections owned or controlled by the museum unless such transactions are offered at public sale and have followed the rules stated in the policy for disposition of objects.

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