Acquisitions & Accessions / Deaccessions & Disposals

The legal acquisition and accession of objects into your collections is a sign of a healthy and active institution. But what are the proper methods of acquiring objects and what kind of documentation do you need in order to prove legal title? As your institution continues to collect objects, the issue of legally removing and disposing of objects may also arise. In this module, you will learn how museums, archives/special collections, and institutions with living collections handle this foundational part of a collections policy.


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Practical Exercise
Mysteries of the Museum 

Help your institution determine whether or not objects are relevant in collections. 

Discussion Questions
During the webinar presentation, the proper methods of acquiring and disposing of objects were discussed. Institutions acquire objects through many different methods. Some of the most common include donations, purchases, bequests, or exchanges. In some cases, institutions also acquire objects through active field collection or repository agreements.

  • What methodologies does your institution use to acquire new objects?
  • Are all of the methods you use to acquire objects discussed in your collections management/development policy?
  • If not, what clarifications should you add?

Proper and ethical disposal of items from your collection can occur in different ways. The most common methods include transfer to an appropriate organization, exchange, repatriation, return to donor, and in some cases, public sale. In the museum field, and for some archival institutions, all deaccessions should be governed by a deaccession policy and process formally approved by the governing authority.

  • Does your institution have a formal policy regarding disposal?
  • If so, which methods do you use?
  • If not, which methods do you think would be most applicable to your institution and why?
  • Why do you need, or not need, to include deaccession and disposal in your policy?

Utilizing the game spinner have each participant take a turn at the spinner.  Read the question or topic to the group and discuss among the group. Use examples from your policy or institution. 


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Online Resources
Texas State Library and Archives Commission, CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries

National Park Service (NPS), Museum Handbook, Part 2a: Museum Records, Chapter 2: Accessioning

National Park Service (NPS), Museum Handbook, Part 2a: Museum Records, Chapter 6: Deaccessioning

University of Alaska Museum of the North, Acquisitions & Accessioning Policy

Society of American Archivists, A Guide to Deeds of Gift

Society of American Archivists, Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning

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