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AAMD's Q&A on Maier Museum Censure

AAMD's Q&A on Maier Museum Censure

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Association of Art Museum Directors' Q&A on its condemnation of past and future art sales from Randolph College's Maier Museum to fund university operations.
Association of Art Museum Directors' Q&A on its condemnation of past and future art sales from Randolph College's Maier Museum to fund university operations.

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Published by: Lee Rosenbaum, CultureGrrl on Jun 28, 2011
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09/15/2014

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Q&A Regarding AAMD’s Censure of Randolph CollegeJune 21, 2010Q: Is the Maier Museum a member of AAMD? Has it ever been a member?
A: The Maier Museum has never been a member of AAMD.
Q: Why does AAMD take such a strong stand on deaccessioning for operating expenses?
A: One of the most basic and important of AAMD’s principles is that a museum’s collection is held inthe public trust and must not be treated as a financial asset.
Q: Randolph College deaccessioned a work in May of 2008 to raise operating funds? Why has ittaken AAMD so long to take a stand on this issue?
A: AAMD spoke out against Randolph College’s proposed sale of works from the Maier Museum whenthe plan was announced in 2007. The proposed deaccessioning was taken to court and when the case wasresolved and Randolph College moved forward with its plans, AAMD met with College leadership tooffer support in finding alternatives to deaccessioning to raise operating funds. When the College decidedto continue this course of action, the AAMD Board voted to censure Randolph College.
Q: What was the process for coming to this decision regarding Randolph College?
A: AAMD carefully reviewed the situation, met with the leadership of Randolph College to learn moreabout their position and offer its support in exploring alternatives to the deaccessioning plan, and made asite visit to the Maier Museum. On the basis of these meetings and AAMD’s deliberation, AAMD’sBoard of Trustees voted to censure Randolph College.
Q: If the court ruled that Randolph College could sell works from the Maier Museum foroperating funds, why is AAMD taking the position that it should not do so?
A: AAMD’s policy exists to prohibit institutions from selling works of art to support operations becausedoing so fundamentally compromises a museum and does not effectively address the underlying causes of financial distress. This is an issue of “best practice” for art museums.
Q: Why does AAMD take the position that it must respond to the actions of institutions that arenot AAMD members?
A: The principal of not treating works of art as fungible assets is a fundamental aspect of professionalpractice in the museum field as a whole, not just for members of AAMD.
Q: Is this is the first time the AAMD has taken an action such as this towards an art museum?
A: No. In December 2008, AAMD censured and imposed sanctions on the National Academy Museumin response to the sale by the National Academy of two paintings from its collection, the proceeds fromwhich were used to cover operating costs. AAMD met with National Academy leadership to discuss howAAMD could help the museum in finding ways to achieve financial stability and institute policies topreclude the proceeds of any future deaccessions being used for operating funds.As a result, the National Academy restructured its board and revised to its underlying governing policies,developed and began implementation of strategic and financial plans to set the museum on a solid footing
 
for the future, and made a commitment to follow AAMD’s policy on deaccessioning. Due to thissignificant progress, AAMD suspended its sanctions on the National Academy in October, 2010.
Q: What is the purpose of the censure that AAMD has imposed on Randolph College?
A: Our hope is for a similar outcome to that of the National Academy Museum – that Randolph Collegewill put in place a financial plan to set the College on a solid financial footing without futuredeaccessioning of works from the Maier Museum to meet expenses. As with the National Academy, wehave offered our support in finding alternatives to the course of action currently being pursued by theCollege. If the College remains unwilling to consider alternatives to the sale of art, then we hope that theywill stop promoting the College as home to an art museum, or using the notion of having a museum oncampus as a tool for recruiting students and donors.
Q: If Randolph College dissolves the Maier Museum and then sells works, would that be asatisfying resolution from AAMD’s perspective?
A: We would regret that decision, as AAMD believes that art museums play a vital role in the academiclife of an educational institution and its community.
Q: But doesn’t AAMD’s censure actually encourage Randolph College to stop operating the MaierMuseum as an art museum?
A: No, quite the opposite. We have met with the leadership of Randolph College to discuss alternativesto their current plans and encourage them to preserve both the collection and the Maier Museum.
Q: What actions will AAMD take if Randolph College moves forward with the sale of additionalworks?
A: AAMD hopes Randolph College will not move forward with the sale and will continue to offer oursupport in reaching other solutions to its challenges.
Q: Does the censure of Randolph College mean that AAMD members cannot loan or borrowworks from the Maier Museum?
A: No. AAMD has not sanctioned the Maier Museum at this time.
Q: Why didn’t the AAMD impose sanctions on the Maier Museum, in addition to its censure?
A: AAMD hopes that Randolph College will work with the AAMD to change its current plans andAAMD believes the current censure is the best approach at this time to achieving that goal.
Q: What action could Randolph College take that would cause the AAMD to lift its censure?
A: If Randolph College made—and followed—a commitment not to deaccession works from the MaierMuseum for operating funds, AAMD would lift its censure. AAMD has communicated to the presidentof Randolph College that we are very willing to provide support in finding alternatives to the course of action currently being pursued.
Q. Randolph College states that the Maier Museum it is not a “museum” in the traditional sense,and therefore should not be bound by AAMD’s rules. Why does AAMD disagree?
 
A. Randolph College promotes the Maier Museum as an art museum in many different ways including inits promotional materials, and on its Form 990, which states: “the College has an extensive collectionwhich is maintained in a museum under curatorial care and is used for instruction, public exhibition,scholarly research, preservation for future generations, and loan and exchange programs.” Thus,Randolph College is clearly and publicly stating that it runs a museum. AAMD believes that colleges anduniversities that create art museums must operate those museums to the same standards as any other artmuseum.
Q. Doesn’t the current economic downturn—which is dramatically reducing revenue for collegesand museums along with everyone else—suggest that AAMD’s policy on deaccessions may beinconsistent with these hard times?
A. Just the opposite: AAMD’s prohibition on deaccessioning art works for operating funds existsprecisely to safeguard collections at moments of challenge.
Q: Is it AAMD’s position that Randolph College should avoid deaccessioning for operatingexpenses, even if the alternative is ceasing to exist?
A: There are a number of alternatives to deaccessioning that organizations can implement when they arefaced with severe economic challenges. We have encouraged Randolph to pursue these alternatives andhave offered our help in doing so.
Q. What has the reaction been from AAMD’s broader membership to this action against the MaierMuseum?
A. The feedback received expresses regret that Randolph College pursued this course of action in the firstplace, and support for the importance of upholding AAMD’s fundamental principles.
Q. If another art museum were to deaccession in this way, how would AAMD respond?
A. As with the National Academy Museum and Randolph College, AAMD’s first response would be tomeet with the institution’s leadership and try to help avoid such a step. If the institution then proceededto deaccession works of art to generate operating revenue, our response would be similar: to consider theappropriate response in light of the circumstances including potential censure and sanctions.
Q. Does Randolph College’s sale of art from the Maier Museum’s collection raise other concernsfor AAMD?
A. The use of a museum’s collection as a source of revenue jeopardizes an essential accounting standardestablished by FASB that affects all museums, not just art museums: that collections are not "assets" inthe sense that a business has commercial assets. For non-profit organizations, the long-standingaccounting rules governing our collections are essential. The rules draw a distinction between thetangible assets an institution might use to generate revenue--for example, real estate--and the collectionsof works of art, which are held in trust for the public, and for the educational benefit and enjoyment of their communities and the nation.
Q: In the past, AAMD has condemned the actions of other art museums when they proposeddeaccessioning for operating expenses, but did not censure those institutions. Is this inconsistentwith the AAMD action’s regarding Randolph College and the Maier Museum?
A: AAMD has spoken out when museums raised the possibility of deaccessioning for operating expenses

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