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Discussion – Museum Acquisition and Art Theft
Part 1: Museum Acquisitions around the United States are very much similar if not the same. Museums make their unique contribution to the public by collecting, preserving and interpreting the things of this world. Per the American Alliance of Museums, “Museums in the United States are grounded in the tradition of public service. They are organized as public trusts, holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve. Members of their governing authority, employees and volunteers are committed to the interests of these beneficiaries. The law provides the basic framework for museum operations. As nonprofit institutions, museums comply with applicable local, state, and federal laws and international conventions, as well as with the specific legal standards governing trust responsibilities. This Code of Ethics for Museums takes that compliance as given. But legal standards are a minimum. Museums and those responsible for them must do more than avoid legal liability, they must take affirmative steps to maintain their integrity so as to warrant public confidence. They must act not only legally but also ethically. This Code of Ethics for Museums, therefore, outlines ethical standards that frequently exceed legal minimums.”
What is the procedure(s) for the acquisition of artifacts by and for museums today? Just to compare two of many The Museum of Fine Arts Boston and The Metropolitan Museum of Art pretty much does the same thing in order to acquire art. The Director and Deputy Director together have the authority to approve acquisitions valued at or under $50,000 on behalf of the Committee. The Committee will be informed of all such decisions. Acquisitions above $50,000 require Committee approval. When time does not permit the advance approval of acquisitions above $50,000 at one of the Committee’s regular meetings, a quorum of the Committee (as defined in the Museum’s by-laws), including the Chair, has the authority to proceed. Such acquisitions will be presented at a subsequent meeting.
The Curator proposing the acquisition and the appropriate Conservator and/or Scientist will make every effort to examine the work of art in person before an acquisition proposal is submitted to the Committee. Each acquisition proposal will be accompanied by a written recommendation from the relevant Curator that: provides pertinent (“tombstone”) information about the object, including a basic description of the work, materials, date, seller/donor and suggested credit line, describes the importance of the object in the context of the Departmental Collection Strategy, indicates the way the work of art will complement or duplicate other institutional collections in New England, discusses the object in relation to the Museum’s collection as a whole, with particular attention to how works of art have cross-departmental significance, defends the price of the object (for purchases) or provides donor information (for gifts and bequests), and provides all available provenance information.
Has this always been the procedure? Do all museums follow the current procedure? Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Do you find this procedure ethical?
Yes, I fin Do you see any problems with the procedure? Do museums have a responsibility to return works that were illegally acquired? Does the date of the illegal acquisition affect your answer?
After researching the topic, formulate an opinion on one aspect of acquisition using the questions posed above to guide you. Once you have formulated an opinion, make a persuasive argument to your classmates. Include at least one work of art to bolster your argument and assist in backing up your opinion. If using a work of art from the textbook, include the title and page number. If using an online work of art, include a web address for your fellow classmates to view the work of art. Remember to use essay format (introduction, body and conclusion) and pay proper attention to grammar and proofing.

Part 2:
After posting Part 1, you will respond to one of your classmate’s postings. Choose a student’s post that does not have a response (i.e. each original post will have one response post only). In your response, you will disagree with the argument (or some part of the argument) set forth by your classmate. You will make a compelling argument that contradicts their opinion (or some aspect of their opinion). Be sure to give a substantial response (i.e. no “yes” or “no” responses here).

PLEASE - as you will be doing all semester, disagree respectfully. Art is all about different opinions and opening our mind to different points of view. We can always disagree with another (that makes life interesting), but in an academic setting that means doing so in a respectful way.
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