Task Force for the Protection of University Collections

The Task Force for the Protection of University Collections was catalyzed by the proposed closure of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum in 2009. In the intervening years, the Task Force has successfully functioned as an advocate and professional resources for college and university art museums whose collections are under threat. In the fall of 2017, participating organizations (AAM, AAMC, AAMD, AAMG, CAA, ICOM/UMAC, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation) recommitted to supporting the Task Force’s activities. In doing so, these professional associations recognized the potential of mounting political, economic, cultural, and social pressures around the globe to spur or encourage collections-related activities that contravene professional standards and best practices, particularly for academic art museums and galleries.* This includes (but is not limited to) the monetization and/or the inappropriate alienation, sale, or disposal of art and artifacts held in trust for the benefit of the public by registered 501(c)(3) entities, whether private or public.

It is against this backdrop that the Task Force condemns the monetization of collections assets while also affirming its support of legitimate deaccessioning practices, conducted according to the highest standards of best professional practice. This means that, for museums in the United States, any proceeds received from the sale of collection objects must be used to replenish that same collection and/or the direct care of collections (as appropriate) and that any resulting acquisitions must carry the original donor name. It is the primary charge of the Task Force to encourage college and university administrators to adhere to and comply with these critically important principles.

The Task Force comprises representatives from the following national and international art organizations: the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and its Accreditation Commission, the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the College Art Association (CAA), University Museums and Collections (UMAC) committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. It operates under the umbrella of AAMG’s Professional Practices Committee, and is co-chaired by Dr. Jill Deupi (AAMG VP, Affiliate Relations, and Beaux Arts Director and Chief Curator of the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami) and Dr. John Wetenhall (AAMG VP, Strategic Planning and Advocacy, and Director of The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum).

The Task Force convenes once a year (coincident with AAMG’s annual meeting) and more often when required. Between meetings, the group constantly monitors potential threats to university collections in order to provide rapid response advice and support to museum administrators whose institutions are being threatened. We are also available to mobilize communities and to speak at conferences and professional or public meetings.

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Task-Force Members

Co-chairs
Jill Deupi, JD, PhD, AAMG VP (Affiliate Liaison), Beaux Arts Director and Chief Curator, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami

John Wetenhall, PhD, AAMG VP (Strategic Planning and Advocacy), Director of The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum

Ex officio
American Alliance of Museums (AAM)
Julie Hart, Senior Director, Standards and Excellence Programs

Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC)
Judith Pineiro, Executive Director

Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD)
Christine Anagnos, Executive Director

Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG)
John Versluis, President
Dean, Texas Heritage Museum

College Art Association (CAA)
Hunter O’Hanian, Executive Director

At Large
William Eiland
Director, University of Georgia Museum of Art

Catherine Giltrap
Curator of College Art Collections, Trinity College, Ireland, UMAC

Jill Hartz
Executive Director, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
President Emerita, AAMG

Lyndel King
Director, Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

Max Marmor
President, Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Steph Scholten
Director of Heritage Collections, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, UMAC

Stephanie Wiles
Director, Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University

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Resolution on the Protection of Collections
UMAC Resolution

Be it resolved by UMAC, the University Museums And Collections Committee of ICOM (International Council of Museums) on this 14th day of August, 2013, in the ICOM triennial meeting in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, that whereas:

  • Collections held by universities internationally are an important part of university and world heritage.
  • These collections are irreplaceable and must not be dealt with purely as fungible, financial assets of the university that can be disposed of to meet financial needs.

Therefore:

  • These collections must be valued for the role they can play in preserving the history of universities and for the role they can play in current teaching and research at universities, as well as for educating the public.
  • If a collection must be disposed of for any reason, it must be done in keeping with the professional standards of museums and the disciplines concerned. Any disposal of collection by a university must be done in consultation with, and on the advisement of, those experts who are responsible for the collection.
  • It is the responsibility of a university to provide appropriate protection for collections that they hold in trust for their students and faculty and the world community, now and in the future.
  1. a) This resolution is in support of and in accordance with ICOM’s Code of Ethics for Museums, Code of Professional Ethics, adopted unanimously by the 15th General Assembly of ICOM in Buenos Aires (Argentine) on 4 November 1986 and amended by the 20th General Assembly in Barcelona (Spain) on 6 July 2001, retitled Code of Ethics for Museums, and revised by the 21st General Assembly in Seoul (Republic of Korea) on 8 October 2004. This resolution refers to the section on Removing Collections 2.12-2.17b) This resolution is in support of and in accordance with the Council Of Europe Committee Of Ministers, Recommendation Rec (2005)13 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the governance and management of university heritage (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 December 2005 at the 950th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies) particularly sections 7 and 8 that encourage public authorities and higher education institutions to make full use of existing laws and of external and internal regulations for the protection and preservation of the heritage of universities and to adopt adequate provisions to protect their heritage where such do not already exist and section 18 that encourages institutions to provide and maintain suitable physical accommodation for their heritage and to provide balanced and reasonable funding for its protection and enhancement.c) This resolution is in support of and in accordance with the American Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics for Museums, adopted by its Board of Trustees on November 12, 1993 and the Association of Art Museum Directors Professional Practices in Art Museums, 2001.

* College and university museums are particularly vulnerable to such abuses because of their dependence on their parent organizations, which may have institutional priorities beyond the protection and/or advancement of their museums. This situation is aggravated by the relatively high operational costs of museums and perceptions of the significant market value of their collections. As a result, academic administrators—who frequently do not have specialist knowledge or depth of experience in the field of museum administration—may be tempted to view their campus collections as an asset to be used to shore up faltering finances and/or address other non-museum-related needs.