Masterpiece Theatre

Tomorrow (March 13th, 2007) folks will gather to hear about the “Best and Worst Practices in Deaccessioning.”


Ever since the recent sale of two major paintings by Thomas Eakins, the most signficant and interesting conversations have been private, quiet and out-of-public earshot. During this one-day seminar on the legal, ethical and professional guidelines for sewardship of collections, held at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, much (one hopes) will be said and shared. Far too much of this drama, which at times resembles Masterpiece Theatre, also calls to mind episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs.

Seminar organizers, the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, promise a day-long conversation about the factors that contribute to “good” and “bad” deaccessioning.

Seminar planners ask: Can this practice be an important part of a comprehensive collections management program? Can it strengthen an institution? Can it bring an institution negative publicity, diminished interpretive capacity, financial problems and even lawsuits? Yes, yes and yes.

Since we know that our region’s collecting institutions have been deaccessioning and plan to continue (if not intensify) the practice, this bit of transparency is not only welcome, it is sorely needed.

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