Hello again! This is Sami with another look at what is going on behind the scenes in the museum. Here at the museum we are in the process of taking care of the collections. This not only means making sure that the collections we have stay in good condition but it also means disposing of objects that no longer fit the scope and mission of our museum. This process is called deaccessioning and that is what I’m going to talk about today.
Deaccessioning is the act of permanently removing an object from the museum’s collections. There are several different ways an object can be permanently removed; by giving to another museum where the object fits the scope and mission, giving back to the donor, auction, and destruction. The reasons to deaccession an object are because it no longer fits the scope and mission of our museum, is cracked, broken, or deteriorated, is a duplicate in the collections, or poses a threat to the rest of the collections or the staff. The High Plains Museum mission is “to promote, educate, and instill an appreciation of our Western Kansas High Plains heritage through the collection, preservation, exhibition, and educational interpretation of the objects, culture, and ideas representative of Goodland and Sherman County history.” This means that if an object in our collection does not represent Goodland or Sherman County history it would be a candidate for deaccession.
Once an object becomes a candidate for deaccessioning, research is then done on the object. This ensures that we are doing our due diligence by making sure what the object is and the importance of it. Once it has been determined that the object will be deaccessioned then the method must be chosen. If it is still in good condition and another museum can use it we will try to find an appropriate institution for it. If it is cracked, broken or deteriorated or poses a threat to the safety of others and the collections then the method we would use would be destruction. When destroying an object we destroy it so that it cannot be salvaged.
While deaccessioning sounds harsh it is actually good for the collections if an object warrants deaccessioning. By deaccessioning an object that no longer fits the mission of our museum we can better take care of objects that do. Deaccessioning only occurs when it is ethical and founded that an object no longer fits our mission or is beyond repair.
Here at the High Plains Museum an example of items that we deaccessioned were Saturday Evening Post magazines. These magazines have nothing to do with Sherman County history aside from the fact that they were read by someone who lived in the county at one time and therefore do not fit our scope of collections. There is also a repository for this magazine so even though we got rid of the ones in our collections, they are still being preserved.
Deaccessioning is part of responsible collections managment and is done through careful consideration. Deaccession is a regular part of museum operations and helps keep museums from becoming indiscriminate warehouses. If you have any questions feel free to ask as it is a sensitive issue for all museums.