The relationship between laws and ethics is not always clear. Although we may have a legal right to do something, this does not necessarily mean it is ethically justified. What role does ethics play in caring for museum collections and what kinds of situations can raise ethical dilemmas? Do space rentals raise ethical challenges? How should you think about providing access to your collections? When is it O.K. to sell the Monet or old doilies from your collection? What is a conflict of interest and when might it occur? To explore the difference between legal and ethical issues we will consider the issue of deaccessioning collections.

Is deaccessioning legal? And, even it if is, is it ethical? Although deaccessioning is an accepted collections management practice, it too often captures the attention of the media and incites the anger of the public. We will explore the legal and ethical aspects of deaccessioning from the decision to remove an object from a museum’s collections to the considerations that should be made before disposing of a deaccessioned item. It will also elaborate upon the recent American Alliance of Museums white paper, Direct Care of Collections: Ethics, Guidelines, and Recommendations.

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