The Deaccession Dilemma: Themes in the American Debate about Art Museum Deaccessions
Theory and Practice, Volume 1, 2018
A leading scholar on museums contends collections are at the heart of art museums and form “their life-blood and raison d’etre.” This statement implies collections are dynamic, vigorous embodiments of a museum’s intellectual history. Others see museums as artworks’ final destinations, with collections that are stagnant and inanimate assemblages. To them, museums are “mausoleums where objects that once had a life now [sit] embalmed for display, [and] come off as precious, enshrined, drained of their juice.” These dueling concepts are just one facet of the ongoing debate among American museum professionals and the public about the ethics, legality, and economic value of deaccessioning works from art museum collections.