Year of Publication

2007

Document Type

Thesis

College

Fine Arts

Department

Art

First Advisor

Ania Brzyski

Abstract

Throughout their history in America, museums, including those of art, have adapted according to their environment. One result of this adaptability is that objects in art museum collections are not as permanent as those outside the museum field tend to believe. As scholarship, funding, and audiences change, objects which at one time were considered pertinent to a museum collection may be deaccessioned, the term used for when a museum removes an accessioned object from its permanent collection. Yet deaccessioning in America tended to remain the exception, rather than the rule, until the last three decades of the twentieth century. How deaccessioning became a normal element of collections management in the late twentieth century can be understood as a consequence of a number of factors, including a change in the institutional and economic climate in which art museums operated. Examining some of the factors leading to the normalization of deaccessioning, at least for those in the museum community, can help us better understand the implications of such a shift.

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