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NY State&#146s New Deaccession Rules: Ambivalent Response from AAM, AAMD

As I predicted, there are many in the museum field who do not joyously welcome the additional government oversight for deaccessions embodied in the new rules approved on Tuesday by the NY State Board of Regents (and also approved by CultureGrrl).

Both the American Association of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors yesterday issued statements that express their shared ambivalence.

AAM declared:

We wholeheartedly endorse the principles embodied in the regents’ decision. Recognizing that New York State is unique in its oversight structure for museums, AAM would prefer these important standards be enforced by the professionals in the field [emphasis added]. Past events have shown that sunshine and transparency provide the best sanctions on museums, as institutions that violate the field’s accepted principles and best practices risk the erosion of the public trust that is essential to their success.

The regulations, in fact, mandate more “sunshine and transparency” than would otherwise be standard practice, by requiring museums to file with the state an annual list of all objects or groups of objects deaccessioned—a document that I assume, under the Sunshine Law, would be publicly available.

Meanwhile, AAMD, under its new executive director, Christine Anagnos, has issued yet another in it series of factually clueless statements:

AAMD strongly supports the principle that funds from deaccessioning
may be used only for the acquisition of works of art. Indeed, it has
been a core principle for AAMD and its members for many decades. We
believe that such issues are best handled through professional
associations like AAMD or AAM, rather than through legislation
[emphasis added]. AAMD
recognizes that the intention behind the bill is to support a core
principle that we ourselves uphold, and are glad to have an endorsement
of our principle.

Christine (and Kaywin), New York hasn’t handled this issue “through legislation” (at least not yet). The new policy was established by a unanimous vote of the NY State Board of Regents to amend its rules, which govern most of the museums in the state. This had nothing to do with the State Legislature.

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