The Association of Academic Museums and Galleries has published, with support from the Kress Foundation, The Task Force for the Protection of University Collections: A Ready Reference Guide for Academic Museum Professionals. The Task Force’s stated purpose is to serve as a resource and advocate for college and university museums whose collections are or may be under threat. This Ready Reference Guide outlines the purpose of the Task Force and seeks to provide museum personnel with a basic roadmap as they begin to navigate the challenges related to voluntary deaccessions.
Founded in 2009 under the aegis of Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG) the Task Force brings together leaders from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD, the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), the College Art Association (CAA), and the International Council of Museums/University Museums and Collections (ICOM/UMAC).
The Task Force believes museum collections and the objects they comprise are not cash-equivalent assets or fungible goods, but rather, material manifestations and cultural expressions of humanity and its many histories. Furthermore, as they frequently enjoy tax-exempt status under IRS Code §501(c)(3), museums have an obligation to use the works entrusted to their care and stewardship for the benefit of the public, which effectively subsidizes their very existence. Such organizations equally owe a debt of trust to the public, which extends the same trust to them. Accordingly, the Task Force condemns the inappropriate monetization of museum collections as well as the inappropriate use of monetary gains realized through their sale.
The Task Force does, however, support legitimate deaccessioning practices that abide by all governing legal, ethical, and moral considerations as well as accepted standards of best professional practices for museums driven by sound collections management considerations rather than financial imperatives or concerns.