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Author Topic:   collection donation - fund raising idea
Scott Martin
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Posts: 11202
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 06-22-2014 02:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For some time I have been thinking about a very rough idea. It may be premature or too rough to know if this is a good idea but perhaps some of you could suggest ways to move it forward.

For years I have watched great collections get broken up because museums/institutions are unable to accept the collection as a donation because the institution is unable to accept the donation without it being accompanied by large cash $ donation to maintain the collection.

The loose idea is to have an institution identify a collection they would want to accept as a donation. And then to have the institution explain what sort of long term $ funding they would require to accept the donation.

And now for the idea.

Use Internet public fund raising (like Kickstarter but for non-profits) to see if the collection and institution can raise the money to successfully place, protect, preserve and publicly share the collection.

Well that is the loose idea.

Anyone care to discuss and to help it come into reality?

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swarter
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Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 06-22-2014 07:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it only large collections that are an issue? Right now the internet market is somewhat depressed, but in better times it might be used to contribute some funds to the receiving institution. Every collection has a core or theme with other items peripheral to the main thrust of the collection - these could be sold off (with the donor's consent). I am thinking primarily of smaller collections which would not be such a strain on the museum's resources to maintain, as not enough would be raised to provide much - if any- of an endowment. Is this at all practical? For all I know it is a coommon practice.

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Ulysses Dietz
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Posts: 1265
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iconnumber posted 06-23-2014 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gosh, it's been a long time, and I apologize. Who thought I'd get busier as I got older...isn't it supposed to SLOW DOWN???

Crowdsourcing, including things like Kickstarter, is a great idea for independent fundraising ideas. But you need to understand that in most museums all of the fundraising is managed by a small staff and that every single effort takes time. My museum raises millions each year just to keep the lights on; the luxury of crowdsourcing is just beyond our current staff's reach. They don't have the time to manage lots of simultaneous fundraising ventures.

Here's the key statistic that has been calculated in the museum industry: every single object that enters a museum, whether by gift or by purchase, costs the museum $1000 in the first year, in terms of staff time, prorated utility and storage space costs. This includes curatorial time, administrative time, and all other related expenses. Bottom line: no gift is without cost.

All museums have issues of storage space today, and "collections" often are most valuable in terms of their research potential, rather than their exhibition potential. More and more museums are rejecting collections that do not have "wow" appeal to potential audiences. Scholarly potential (archives, study collections) has no marketability to audience.

If anyone were to offer me a collection of say 1000 silver spoons (which in fact was just offered to me) I would say no without any hesitation. 1000 anything, pretty much, unless it was 1000 pieces of Faberge or Tiffany jewelry (and then, really??? everything is boring in too much quantity).

There's my opening salvo. Let's keep talking.

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Scott Martin
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Posts: 11202
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 06-23-2014 02:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
    ....All museums have issues of storage space today, and "collections" often are most valuable in terms of their research potential, rather than their exhibition potential. More and more museums are rejecting collections that do not have "wow" appeal to potential audiences. Scholarly potential (archives, study collections) has no marketability to audience. .....

I would think the "wow" appeal is very important for attracting the casual social media crowd. And it is a way for an institution who is able to be ‘trending’ to get a financial bump. But today's "wow" is tomorrow's "'Ho-hum' Been there, Done that". I would think long term $ supporters and patronage would be the long term institutional goal. Education is a continuum that is often easier to support than just a fleeting "wow".

I feel one of the best implementations is the Henry R. Luce Study Centers appearing in more and more museums/institutions. The concept of 'visual storage' combined with the electronic info terminal is fantastic. I learned things I never knew I wanted to learn. Knowledge is kind of addictive, I keep going back.

So I would think the idea of protecting and sharing a collection in a educational way has a greater long term benefit for benefactors than the short lived "wow" factor.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 06-23-2014 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a former curator of natural history collections, I was always trained to think of historical preservation and scientific research as the primary raisons d' e-tet for their existence, but even there, the pencil pushers are taking over now. Reality now flies in the face of preservation and the building of knowledge.

Similarly publication of that accumulated knowledge once was free in journals that now require payment. ita scientia decedit


Addendum:

And what of the docents and other volunteers that could perform some of those tasks?


[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 06-23-2014).]

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Polly

Posts: 1843
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 06-23-2014 10:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm finding this discussion absolutely fascinating.

When I'm about to die, I will put my thousand silver spoons in a pirate chest and bury them deep on a desert island. I have a particular island in mind. It's covered with poison ivy, which should help deter a few generations of looters. Then, when enough time has gone by, future generations of archaeologists (at the rate global warming is going, they'll probably be underwater archeologists) can dig up my spoons, and no museum will have had to go to the expense of storing them.

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Ulysses Dietz
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Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 06-24-2014 09:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I didn't mean to imply that the "wow" factor is what drives me, particularly; and of course what's hot today might be seen as boring tomorrow. And I agree that, from my perspective, a museum's key role is to preserve, to keep safe those things that might not survive "out there."

On the other hand, very few collectors really understand the needs and mission of a museum - which is equal parts education and preservation. No museum exists just to collect. In my department at Newark alone I have 40,000 objects, larger than 80% of all the other decorative arts collections in the nation. I don't need more stuff; I need funding for more curators and more exhibition people and more collections care people--I want to be able to rotate the things we own already in the galleries--and that's what we don't have staff and material resources to do. Objects in storage are meaningless and useless, except to scholars. Our audience (every museum's audience) is 99% NOT scholars.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 06-24-2014 02:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Our audience (every museum's audience) is 99% NOT scholars
.

That is a sad comment on society today. Ideally, museums should be able to inspire scholarship and thus create scholars, rather than simply entertain the masses. Great museums did that for me and others I know. Sadly, the trend seems now to be in the other direction at some (many?) institutions.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 06-24-2014).]

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 06-24-2014 03:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Again, a matter of semantics. "Scholar" means a specialist, an expert; and yes, there are amateurs, enthusiasts, who want to focus specifically on something in a museum and its library/archives, and they are self-made scholars.

But no museum's goal as ever been to make "scholars." Don't kid yourself. Museums have always been there for scholars, but those people have always been a small part of the museum audience. Our goal is to take people who are curious and intelligent and enrich their lives, expand their minds.
"Entertainment" is not what I meant at all, but for curious and intelligent people, learning is entertaining. There's no reason that entertaining someone is not also educating them.

Don't for a moment imagine that people who love to go to museums today are any less intelligent or cultured that people who loved to go to museums 100 years ago. But there is a distinct shift in the museum world to try to bring in people who DON'T love to go to museums. 100 years ago they simply wouldn't have gone at all. The fact that they go today, even if they're going for the "wrong" reasons, means that there's a chance to change them, and thus change their lives.

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Ulysses Dietz
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Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 06-24-2014 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And of course, the point of all of my above comments is that museums need money for staff to care for, interpret and exhibit objects--or the objects are useless to everyone.

How do we fund museums adequately so that they can do their job to the best of their ability? That's the real question here.

Boy, did we wander off topic!

I've been a curator for 34 years, and a museum director for eight months last year (no, thank you!).

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Martine

Posts: 55
Registered: Jul 2001

iconnumber posted 11-28-2015 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Martine     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wish that I lived close to the Newark museum! I'd love to help maintain the silver!

I've often thought about donating a couple of items in my silver collection to a museum, but I hesitate because museums do de-accession some of their inventory periodically and I'd like a good forever home for a few special pieces after I pass on. But maybe I will opt to be buried with a few choice items. smile

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