The Memorial Art Gallery, like most museums, reevaluates its permanent collection on an ongoing basis to ensure its holdings maintain an appropriate level of quality and usefulness. To uphold these standards, MAG occasionally deaccessions works of art, a procedure that permanently removes an object from the collection. The museum’s established procedures are governed by the deaccessioning policy [PDF] of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

It is the responsibility of MAG staff, through continual evaluation, to recommend objects for deaccessioning. Recommendations are presented to the Art Committee by the director or a curator, supported by full justification for deaccessioning, including an explanation of why the given objects are no longer suitable for the collection and a plan for their disposal. Justifiable reasons for deaccessioning include the following: lack of relevancy to mission; duplication; request for repatriation; fake or forgery; inferior quality; severe damage or deterioration; inability to store or care for the object properly, or the object has been stolen and MAG received an insurance claim.

To learn more about the policy and procedures for the deaccession and disposal of art from the museum’s permanent collection, see pages 9-10 of MAG’s Collection Management Policy [PDF]. Updates to museum policies and procedures will be posted to this page when available.

How will the public know what is being deaccessioned?
In accordance with AAMD policy, MAG publishes on its website within a reasonable period of time works that have been deaccessioned and disposed of. That list may be found here: MAG Deaccessions 2017-2022 [PDF]

Additional Resources

Deaccessioning in American Museums Today was an online conference hosted by the Miami Law School’s Hoffman Forum in 2020. It is an excellent introduction to the topic and exploration of its particular relevance today.

This podcast by Maxwell Anderson, a former art museum director, features a conversation with James Duff, past chair of the Professional Issues Committee of the Association of Art Museum Directors. It provides valuable insight into the mechanics and complexities of deaccessioning.

The Most Controversial U.S. Museum Deaccessions: Why Do Institutions Sell Art? from Artnews.

MAG Curator-in-Charge Jess Marten gives a presentation in 2020 on how MAG uses deaccessioning to advance its mission