The Deaccessioning Dilemma: Laws, Ethics, and Actions


Deaccessioning is the opposite of accessioning—it is the permanent removal of an object from a collection. Disposal refers to what happens to a collection object after it has been deaccessioned. Although this important tool for collections control is as old as museums, these processes are fraught with contradiction and controversy. This webinar will address the deaccessioning and disposal of objects in the context of good collection stewardship, including criteria for justifying these decisions and deciding how to dispose of deaccessioned objects. The legal and ethical considerations of deaccessioning and disposal of objects from museum collections will be discussed, as well as and how these procedures should be documented. Critical and contentious issues will be considered including how funds from deaccessioning should be used, whether or not donors should be notified, and how to deal with public misconceptions about the process. Guidelines will be provided for writing deaccessioning and disposal policies and procedures. Questions are invited from the participants.


John E. Simmons JES (MA, Museum Studies) has worked as a zookeeper, collections manager, and museum studies instructor. He received the AAM Superior Voluntary Service Award in 2001, Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Mentoring of Graduate Students in 2005, and the Carolyn L. Rose Award for Outstanding Commitment to Natural History Collections and Management in 2011.  His books include Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies (2006) and Foundations of Museum Studies: Evolving Systems of Knowledge (2014, with Kiersten Latham). His chapter on “Collections Management: History, Theory, and Practice” appeared in Museum Practice: The Contemporary Museum at Work (2015). John runs Museologica (a museum consulting service); teaches for Juniata College, Kent State University, and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia; and is Adjunct Curator of Collections at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery at Penn State University.


Recorded: Thursday, November 19, 2015
Duration: 1 Hour 26 minutes

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The Deaccession Dilemma Powerpoint

Deaccession handout


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