Monday, November 3, 2008

Collecting Histories and Lack of Transparency

Over the last few months I have requested information about four items from two North American museums that are members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). All four items have been acquired since 2002; three come from one museum, one from the other. Both museums have declined to respond or even to acknowledge the requests.

Yet the “2008 Report of the AAMD Subcommittee on the Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art” stated in the Principles:
D. AAMD is committed to the exercise of due diligence in the acquisition process, in particular in the research of proposed acquisitions, transparency in the policy applicable to acquisitions generally, and full and prompt disclosure following acquisition.
Moreover in the Guidelines the report emphasises:
E. Member museums normally should not acquire a work unless provenance research substantiates that the work was outside its country of probable modern discovery before 1970 or was legally exported from its probable country of modern discovery after 1970. The museum should promptly publish acquisitions of archaeological materials and ancient art, in print or electronic form, including in these publications an image of the work (or representative images in the case of groups of objects) and its provenance, thus making this information readily available to all interested parties.
One item appears unillustrated in the Annual Report of the museum (but without acquisition number), and the other three pieces do not yet appear to have been published.

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