Monday, October 22, 2012

New Law Review Article: In Museums We Trust

Sara Tam, 3L at Fordham Law School, has just published In Museums We Trust: Analyzing the Mission of Museums, Deaccessioning Policies, and the Public Trust, in the Fordham Urban Journal. Here's the abstract.
This Note demonstrates that the emphasis on collections management policies undermines a museum’s mission to provide public access to its collections and exhibitions, whether the emphasis originates from museum professional organizations, legislative and judicial action, or media criticism. It highlights the relationship between museums and the public, exploring the museum’s duty to the public, the public’s support of museums, and the public’s expectations of museums. Defining this relationship contributes significantly to shaping museum standards. This Note provides a comprehensive examination of the varying perspectives on the legal and ethical duties currently imposed on museums.

Part I provides an overview of the museum’s mission to collect and exhibit art for the benefit of the public. It also describes the historical development of museum standards and deaccessioning policies. Part II evaluates the effectiveness of current and proposed policies on deaccessioning and the use of deaccessioning sales proceeds, as well as the theories supporting those policies. Part III posits that museums can be trusted to develop and enforce standards that reflect equally the public interest in museums themselves, their collections, and the educational experiences museums offer. Therefore, this Note suggests that legislative intervention is unnecessary to protect the public interest in museums and their collections.