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New AAM Standards Defend Collections-at-Risk in University Museums

Ford Bell, president of the American Association of Museums

When it comes to museum-governance issues of utmost importance, the American Association of Museums, under its proactive president, Ford Bell, doesn’t merely issue suggested guidelines (the usual course taken by the more decorous Association of Art Museum Directors, with one notable exception).

AAM shows it means business by issuing forceful directives with real teeth.

The latest example is AAM’s newly revised [via] Accreditation Commission Policy on Statements of Support from Parent Organizations. The policy takes aim at potential threats to the collections of museums that are governed by financially stressed larger institutions, such as the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University. (The Rose, however, is not on the list
of AAM-accredited institutions; the “teeth” of AAM’s new policy can
only bite museums that wish to be accredited.)

To receive AAM accreditation, museums and their parent organizations will be required to comply with the revised policy. The new rules, however, will not apply to already accredited institutions until they undergo reaccreditation (every 10 years), according to Dewey Blanton, AAM’s head of media relations, who will soon be issuing a press release on the policy revisions.

Here are the key provisions of the revised policy, with new language highlighted in bold italics:

The Accreditation Commission requires museums operating within a parent organization to submit evidence (issued/approved by the parent organization‘s governing body) documenting:

o the importance of the museum, and the collections in its care, to the parent organization

o the parent organization‘s commitment to use its resources to support the museum and its mission, and to protect the museum’s tangible and intangible assets held in the public trust

o the nature of the parent organization’s support and relationship with the museum

This evidence must articulate that the parent:

o values the museum as an intellectual and educational resource

o sees the museum and its collections as essential components of what it does

o is committed to the museum’s continued success in fulfilling its mission and meeting its public trust responsibilities, especially with regard to the collection (if one exists)

o is committed to following AAM and museum field standards, particularly with regard to the museum’s collections, the use of deaccessioning proceeds, and collecting and gift-acceptance policies

One suggested form of evidence that a parent organization may submit to document its commitment to its museum is “a resolution stating the parent organization’s commitment that it will not consider the museum’s collections as disposable assets.”

As CultureGrrl readers may remember, AAM also issued an extremely forceful statement more than a year ago, decrying the proposed closure of the Rose Museum and calling for Brandeis to find another nearby institution to care for the collection if the university could no longer do so.

Speaking of Brandeis, the Rose Preservation Fund, seeking to raise money “to prevent the sale of art from the Rose Art
Museum and to protect it into the future,” is holding a fundraiser tonight at the Pace Gallery in New York. The benefit committee (listed at the above link) includes
a roster of distinguished artists, as well as two Rose board members who last July filed a lawsuit to keep the museum open and to preserve its collection. (Last October, a Suffolk Probate Court judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed, but only on a limited basis.)

A fall exhibition (scroll down) of works by Eric Fischl, April Gornik and Bill Viola has been scheduled to follow the current show (closing June 20) of works from the museum’s permanent collection.

In an update yesterday on the Rose situation, the Boston Globe‘s Geoff Edgars reported that the university still does not plan to hire a museum director or curator, according to Brandeis spokesman Andrew Gully. A collections manager, however, has been hired. Former director Michael Rush, who strongly opposed any art sales, left under duress last June.

Brandeis attorney Alan Rose (no relation, one assumes, to the museum’s eponymous family) told Edgars:

The museum has not closed, is not closed, and will not close.

What he didn’t say, however, is whether some of its art may eventually be sold to address the university’s financial shortfalls.

an ArtsJournal blog