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Housatonic Museum of Art Collections Management Policy

Preface

The purpose of this document is to establish guidelines for the management of The Housatonic
Museum of Art’s collection. The Collection Management Policy ensures a standard of excellence toward care and management, and defines stewardship of the existing collection. The realization of these policies shall be the responsibility of the President and the Management Team and the Director and staff of the Museum.

It is the policy of the college and the museum to improve continuously the conditions in which we care for our collection over the long term as we implement the philosophy, objectives, and priorities of the collection.  We strive to meet and, if possible, exceed the standards recognized as current best practice as approved by leaders in the field and endorsed by the Association of American Museums within the context of the college budget and all applicable State regulations and laws. The College and the Foundation will allocate a budget and apply for such grants as may be available to ensure the continued care of the museum collection.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.    Museum Philosophy

The Housatonic Museum of Art was founded on the philosophy that works of art should be an everyday part of the educational environment.  Just as the college understands the necessity of providing books through a library, Housatonic Community College believes that an equally important component of its educational mission is to provide an opportunity to experience original works of art – in essence, a visual library. Art becomes an integral part of the learning environment.

II.     Museum Mission

The Housatonic Museum of Art is an expression of the serious commitment Housatonic Community College has made to the cultural enrichment of students, faculty, and staff through an introduction to original paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculpture.  In addition, the Museum strives to introduce the greater Bridgeport area to the pleasures and challenges that result from experiencing original art.  The Museum provides educational opportunities through the display of art throughout the building and in the galleries.  The Museum also offers cultural enrichment programs to augment exhibitions in an effort to provide deeper understanding of the work to both the campus community and the entire region.

III.    Museum Purpose

As an educational resource for both the College and the Community, the Housatonic Museum of Art is dedicated to the presentation, preservation and interpretation of objects of artistic or historic value. To further the College’s academic goals, the Museum will actively pursue the development and maintenance of its collections including paintings, sculptures, photographs and artifacts. The Museum collections are to provide a basis for its educational programs for students, faculty, staff and the public; for research and study by scholars, historians and curators; for special lectures and symposia; for exhibitions and for cultural and educational enrichment of the internal community and public-at-large.

IV.    Museum Ethics

The Museum and its governing body abide by a code of ethics that reflect a commitment to excellence and accountability between the State of Connecticut, Housatonic Community College, the Museum, and the society they serve.

V.    Museum History

The Housatonic Museum of Art was founded in 1967 shortly after the College opened its doors.  Burt Chernow, the first instructor in art, believed that original works of art should be as much a part of the everyday College life as textbooks and libraries.  It is used as a resource for a fine arts associate’s degree, a support for the graphic arts program and the general education program at the College, and as a resource for the students, faculty, and staff of the College as well as for the greater Bridgeport community.  It should be emphasized that the primary objective of the collection was to create an environment within which the other elements stated could take place, i.e., a teaching museum, support for graphic arts and the general education programs, and a resource for the college and community.

The Museum has grown with the very generous donations by numerous artists and collectors and consists currently of approximately 4,000 works of art in a variety of media.  Among the well-known artists included in the collection are works by Durer, Rodin, Renoir, Picasso, Miro, Matisse, and Warhol, to name a few. 

VI.    Museum Public Trust

Housatonic Community College shall care properly for the art. Both the College and the Museum utilize the collection to exhibit the works of art and enhance education.  As stewards of a unique state collection, our goal is to preserve and protect this collection for future generations of students.
The college believes that the highest priority is for the art to be accessible and available in keeping with the basic premise upon which the collection was initiated.  Although the public must have reasonable access to the collections on a nondiscriminatory basis, the museum may regulate access to collection materials in order to safeguard them. Within this priority, the college recognizes that it has a responsibility for administering this public trust by overseeing the preservation and maintenance of those objects in the care of the collection. In formulating their recommendation regarding use of the collection, staff should let their judgment be guided by these primary objectives:

  • maintenance of that environment which the collection was established to create
  • preservation of the highest degree possible of the accessibility and availability of the collection
  • the continued physical integrity and safety of the object or collection.
  • scholarly or study purposes, and
  • public access via education.

The college and the museum recognize that the collection is held in trust for future generations. This accountability to the public is taken seriously and we strive to employ the highest standards that are practicable to achieve in caring for the objects in the collection. In so doing we balance the needs for the present, for access, with those of future generations.

 The Museum operates under the laws of the State of Connecticut, the guidelines of Housatonic Community College, and is informed by the ethical standards and practices established by the American Association of Museums.

VII.    Criteria for Collections

The Museum shall maintain two specific types of collections for the purpose of establishing a valuable educational and cultural resource for the students, faculty, and staff of the College as well as providing and expanding the foundation for the Museum’s exhibition program:

 

A.) The Permanent Collection
B.) The Study Collection

VIII.      Definition of Types of Collections

  1. Permanent Collection: designates all objects for which the Museum has exclusive ownership, which are assigned a Museum accession number, and which are maintained in the current files of the Director’s Office. The Museum shall pursue through purchase, exchange, gift or bequest, objects that significantly contribute to the Museum’s collection and that possess the visual integrity and physical condition necessary to be incorporated into the Museum’s educational offerings as well as its exhibition program.
  2. Study Collection: The Museum shall maintain objects in this collection, received through gift or bequest, to be used solely for educational purposes.  Objects in this collection will not be assigned an accession number nor will they be maintained in the files of the Director’s Office.  The Director will recommend to the Dean and to the President whether to accept, reject, utilize or dispose of objects in this category.

IX.     Acquisition of Objects

Works of art and objects considered for acquisition into the Museum’s Permanent Collection will be considered in light of the following criteria:

  1. The object(s) must have intrinsic value.
  2. The object(s) must be consistent with and relevant to the stated purpose, scope and activities of Housatonic Community College and the Museum.
  3. Consideration will be given to the College’s as well as the Museum’s ability to provide proper care and adequate storage for any work of art or artifact. 
  4. The object(s) must have a verifiable record of authenticity and provenance. The provenance of acquired objects shall be a matter of public record.
  5. The object(s) must have a free and clear title.
  6. The College and the Museum abide by all local, state, federal, and international treaties or agreements concerning the acquisition of, use of, and disposal of objects. Neither the College, nor the Museum, will knowingly accept stolen, wrongfully converted or illegally acquired object(s) of questionable provenance through purchase, exchange, gift or bequest.  Further, the acquisition of cultural property of foreign countries is to be guided by the policies of the UNESCO Convention of November 14, 1970.
  7. If Housatonic Community College or the Museum discovers that it has inadvertently acquired an object that is proven to have been obtained illegally, they will seek to return the object to its legal owner in accordance with the any and all of the following: UNESCO Convention, NAGPRA Act of November 16, 1990, Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979.  If an owner cannot be determined, the Museum will seek, through outside competent authorities, the proper means of disposition.
  8. The College and the Museum shall remain aware of and sensitive to the concerns of indigenous persons when considering the acquisition of artifacts especially with regard to burial or other highly sacred objects.
  9. The Donor is responsible for appraisals of value.  Under no circumstances shall the College or the Museum provide an appraisal of a donation.
  10. All acquisitions are to be outright and unconditional.
  11. No object(s) shall be accepted into the Permanent Collection if the immediate intent is to sell or exchange it for another object(s).
  12. All donations to the College and the Museum are irrevocable upon the formal and physical transfer to the Museum.
  13. All legal instruments of conveyance of title, signed by the donor/seller/agent setting forth an adequate description of the object(s) involved and the precise conditions of transfer shall accompany all acquisitions.
  14. Acquisitions by gift or bequest to the Permanent Collection will remain in possession of the College and the Museum a minimum of 5 (five) years, unless otherwise stipulated in the Declaration of Gift, or as long as they retain their physical integrity and authenticity, and as long as they remain useful for the purposes of the Museum.

X.    Museum Guidelines

  1. All gifts and purchases must be accompanied by the appropriate paperwork.  Gifts totaling $5,000 or more must be accompanied by a written third party appraisal. Upon receipt of the appraisal a formal Declaration of Gift will be forwarded to the Donor accepting the work into the Permanent Collection.
  2. Proceeds acquired through the deaccessioning of objects from the Permanent Collection, and cash contributed for a specific category of collection less expenses, namely commissions and fees associated with the sale of the work, will be restricted to the purchase of a new work and/or the preservation and conservation of works in the collection.
  3. Insurance funds received from a lost work of art will be used to replace the piece by artist, kind or style.

XI.    Documentation and Records

The Museum maintains and preserves records of its collection with accession cards, accession file folders, computer files and out-going loan files.  The Director is responsible for maintaining up-to-date records which document the history and all activities affecting objects in the Museum’s custody along with their status: accessioned, loaned, deaccessioned, object left in custody, etc.  All computer records will be safeguarded against hazards such as loss, fire, water, and theft.  All computer files shall be backed-up on a regular basis and duplicate computer files shall be stored on a separate server.

XII.    Accession Records

The Director’s accession records document the legal status of an object, its source, date of receipt, accession number, restrictions placed by donor, provenance, and description.  Deed of Gift or Bill of Sale (sometimes both in case of a partial gift) transferring legal ownership to the Museum includes:  an accession number and an accession card: a Donor folder; and object folder;  and artist’s file, computer entry of all information as stated above.

XIII.    Letter of Acceptance

A letter of acceptance will be sent by the Director with notification to the President, the supervising Dean, and the Director of Institutional Advancement and the Business Office.  A copy will be kept with the donor file and an object file as proof of ownership. This acknowledgement letter will be sent promptly.  In addition, if pertinent information about the object is missing it will be requested here:  object’s title, maker, history, value,  provenance,  and exhibition record.

XIV.    Annual Report

An annual report of objects in the Permanent Collection will be filed by the Director with the President, the supervising Dean, the Director of Institutional Advancement and the Business Office to maintain yearly inventory and insurance records.

XV.    Appraisals

  1. All prospective donors are asked to provide their own validated appraisals for objects to be given to the College and the Museum.   In the event that the appraisal appears to the Director to be inflated, a second appraisal shall be requested, at no expense to the Museum.
  2. Museum staff cannot provide appraisals for a work under consideration by the Museum.  This is a conflict of interest and is not in keeping with the College’s and the Museum’s Code of Ethics.
  3. Insurance valuations, rather than a formal appraisal, may be given by the Museum Director for objects from the collection leaving the premises on loan.

XVI.    Deaccessioning

  1. The Museum and its governing body, the Board of Trustees, must comply with all state and federal laws and regulations with regard to the sale of property, in this case, a work of art or artifact.
  2. The Museum must have a clear and unrestricted title to the object.
  3. The Museum must make every effort to preserve its integrity and good standing within the community and the profession, safeguarding objects in the public trust.
  4. The Museum must make reasonable effort to notify donors (or surviving kin) of the intent to dispose of donated objects. Proper acknowledgement will be given to donors of deaccessioned objects when a new acquisition is made with funds gained through the sale of their object or through the exchange of their object.
  5. The Museum must make a reasonable attempt to notify a living artist of its intent to dispose of his/her work.  Should the artist request the return of work, the Director and governing body shall decide with the advice of legal counsel whether the work may be given back or sold back to the artist or exchanged for another work by that artist.

XVII.    Criteria for Deaccessioning:

  1. The object is no longer of relevance to the College’s collection or it no longer meets the collecting goals of the Museum as determined by the Director, in consultation with the President of the College and/or with the Museum Advisory Committee.
  2. The object is redundant within the collection (for example, two or more copies of the same print all in equal condition).
  3. The quality of an object is so poor that it is unlikely that the object will ever be exhibited.
  4. The condition of the object makes it impossible to display, and restoration is not feasible due to expense or extent of damage.
  5. The object has been found to be in the College’s and the Museum’s possession illegally.  In this case, the Museum shall make every reasonable effort to return the work to its rightful owner/authority.
  6. The authenticity, attribution or genuineness of the object has been proven false. 
  7. The College and the Museum are no longer able to provide proper care for the object.
  8. In the event that the College’s and the Museum’s governing body determine that it will no longer maintain the Permanent Collection, and in accordance with all State regulations governing such action, the works will:
    1. be returned to the original donor/artist or next of kin, or
    2. offered to another accredited Museum for inclusion in their collection, or
    3. offered to another nonprofit entity (i.e. college, university) or
    4. witnessed destruction for objects not deemed disposable by any of the means listed above.

XVIII.    Method of Disposal

The decision to deaccession an object must be presented in writing and approved by the Museum Director, the supervising Dean, and the College President in accordance with all State regulations.  The Director will select the method of disposal subject to the Dean’s and President’s approval:

  1. Transfer to the Study Collection;
  2. Exchange or gift to another Museum or nonprofit entity;  or
  3. Sale at public auction or sale through a reputable dealer (under special circumstances).

XIX.     Documentation and Records

All documents pertaining to the deaccessioning of an object(s) must be filed with the Director and the Business Manager and are a matter of public record that may be released upon request.  Records of all acts relating to deaccessioning of objects (sales records, dates, method of disposal, etc.) are to be kept by the Director and noted in the existing accessions files.

  1. The date and reason for deaccession shall be recorded in the Accessions file.
  2. The Declaration of Gift or the Bill of Sale shall be stamped “deaccessioned” and the reason for deaccessioning will be noted and transferred to the deaccessioned file.
  3. The accession card and donor card are stamped “deaccessioned”, and the date and reason for deaccession is noted on them.  These cards are maintained in the files.
  4. All pertinent information will be entered in the computerized files as well.
  5. For objects transferred from Permanent Collection or to the Study Collection, all records will be coded with the letter “S” preceding the accession number.  All records remain in numerical order.
  6. In the event that a work is destroyed, the Director of the Museum and the witness(es) will sign a document and a photographic record of the destruction of the work will be made.

XX.    Objects Without Documentation

Objects currently in the Permanent Collection that have not been accessioned or otherwise properly documented but nevertheless have been in the collection for some time:

  1. will receive the same level of care as objects with a known provenance.  The objects will be identified as much a possible and labeled.
  2. may be accessioned into the collection but will include FIC, (found in collection), all methods of accessioning will be followed as closely as possible. The Museum will return the object should the original owner return and provide proper proof of ownership. Legal counsel may be sought in these cases.

XXI.    Insurance

The Permanent Collection and all borrowed works are placed on the insurance policy maintained by the State of Connecticut.  Separate deductibles exist for objects in the Permanent Collection and objects on temporary loan to the Museum.  All works are registered on the master insurance policy and updated as new works arrive.  This policy protects against, fire, theft, vandalism, accident and natural disasters.

XXII.    Long-Term Loan

The Museum may hold a few long-term loans from private individuals only if they are promised gifts or works of such outstanding quality and importance that they enhance the Museum’s exhibitions in a significant way.  All loaned objects will be numbered and registered with the Directors Office but will be preceded by an “L”.  These works are also placed on the State insurance policy.  If the Lender prefers to maintain their own insurance they must provide the Museum with a waiver and a Certificate of Insurance for the loan dates.

XXIII.           Care of Collections

The College, the Museum, and its governing body shall endeavor to provide the facilities and funding for the proper environmental and physical protection of all objects in the Museum’s collections and exhibition program as well as maintenance of the records and inventories of its holdings.

XXIV.    Staff

The daily management and care of the Collections will be centered in the Office of the Director.

XXV.    Object Handling

To prevent structural damage, the handling, storage, packing, unpacking, installation, and deinstallation will be monitored by Museum personnel.

No objects will be moved without the supervision and authorization of the Director. College personnel must notify the Director regarding the relocation of objects. Objects will be moved under the supervision of museum personnel in order that collection records can be properly maintained.

The Museum Director will be notified as far in advance as reasonably possible of planned facilities maintenance activities, such as fumigation, repairs involving sanding, painting or washing, so that works of art may be covered or removed completely from the site to prevent damage by chemicals, paint, dirt or water.

The Museum Director will be responsible for the organization of collections storage, the efficient use of storage facilities and the purchase of additional storage equipment.

In the absence of the Museum Director, questions regarding the handling of objects will be handled by the Dean and the President.

XXVI.    Collections On Display

Within the Burt Chernow Galleries food, beverages and social activities will be restricted.

Lighting, exhibition, and cleaning procedures shall comply with the Museum’s professional and environmental standards.

Surveillance cameras and physical security checks by both gallery staff and security staff shall be made periodically to guard against loss by theft or vandalism.

Reports of damage or loss of an object shall be reported immediately to the Director upon discovery.  The Director will notify the Dean, the President, and the Business Office with regard to inventory and insurance and the Director of Security and, if necessary, other appropriate authorities including the State Police.

XXVII.    Conservation

The Director administers the priority rating for repair, restoration or conservation of objects owned by the Museum after consultation with a professional conservator.  The Director will keep records of work to be done, as well as of work already completed, to an object.

Monies for such treatment may be allocated through normal budget distributions or acquired through outside funding sources.

Treatment will be carried out by a professional conservator.

Damage to objects on loan to the Museum or in temporary custody of the Museum shall be promptly reported to the owner so that insurance reports can be completed and decisions regarding repairs can be made in accordance with the insurance policy.  Repairs are made only with consent of the Lender, substantiated by a written confirmation.

XXVIII.    Inventory

  1. The Director and appropriate Curators shall conduct a comprehensive inventory of specific groups or particularly sensitive or vulnerable objects (paper, wood) in the collection every two years, and the entire collection every five years, or as deemed necessary.  Spot check inventories of not less than twenty randomly chosen objects shall be conducted each year by the Director and as necessary by the auditors.
  2. The inventory consists of an examination of the object noting its condition and verifying its location.
  3. If an object appears to be missing, the Director must be notified and will attempt to locate it. If the object cannot be located, then the supervising Dean, the President, the Business Office, and Security will be notified and another search to locate the object will be made.  If the object cannot be located, the State Police will be notified.
  4. Records for the objects missing from the collection shall be marked as such, signed, and dated by the Director.  They shall not officially be deaccessioned from the collection.

XXIX.    Access to the Collection

  1. Access to the collections storage area shall be under the control of the Director, the Dean,  and the President and/or his/her designee. 
  2. Keys to the collections storage area shall be restricted to the Museum Director and Security.

XXX.    Informational Access

  1. Access to collection records will be administered by the Director and the Management team.
  2. In-house staff or volunteers may be granted access to the paper or computer records under the direction of the Director and in the pursuance of his/her duties or research.
  3. Scholars and visitors may be provided with artist’s files and general information about an object. Certain kinds of information about the collection shall remain confidential: provenance, appraised value, and donor identification.

XXXI.    Photography of the Collection

  1. Generally visitors may photograph objects from the Permanent Collection for their own personal use.  Use of flashes is not permissible.
  2. Items loaned to the Museum may not be photographed by the general public or Museum staff without the prior consent of the Lender, except in the case of general installation photographs.
  3. Requests for permission to reproduce/publish images of works in the collection will be administered by the Museum Director.

XXXII.    Use of Gallery Space

  1. Food and drink is prohibited in the galleries except during special supervised functions. Food and drink is at no time to be brought into the galleries with loaned exhibitions.
  2. Smoking is prohibited in the galleries by State Law.