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You should have a policy covering the disposal of accessioned and non-accessioned objects. This could either be a standalone document, part of an integrated collection development policy, or within a wider collections management policy. Either way, in deciding your policy you will most likely need to consider these questions:
- What ethical codes will you follow when considering potential disposals?
- Apart from general considerations, are there any specific legal constraints on your ability to dispose of objects (eg your enabling legislation, governing document or specific agreements with donors)?
- Why and how might you dispose of objects?
- What criteria will you consider when considering proposed disposals?
- Who can propose and authorise the disposal of accessioned objects?
- Who can propose and authorise the disposal of other kinds of non-accessioned material?
You should also have a written procedure that explains the steps to follow when disposing of objects. Spectrum’s suggested procedure is a useful starting point, but however you do it, your own procedure should meet the following minimum requirements:
|Minimum requirement||Why this is important|
|You make the case for any proposed disposal of an object in writing.||Those making the decision have all relevant facts and can check the proposal against agreed policy.|
|In the written case you cite the documentation that proves you own the relevant objects (or gives grounds to assume you do).||Those responsible for the decision can assess the level of risk of disposing of objects when there is no clear proof of ownership.|
|In the written case you research and note any specific risks, costs or other relevant constraints.||You do not dispose of hazardous objects improperly or even illegally (eg asbestos).|
|You get specific approval from your governing body before disposing of any accessioned object, and from more than one authorised person disposing of any non-accessioned material.||Your governing body can be properly accountable for disposals.
Objects are not disposed of at the whim of one individual.
|You dispose of objects in line with the ethical codes that apply to your museum.||You do not risk reputational damage or lose Accredited status.|
|You formally enter approved deaccessions in your accessions register and update other relevant records.||Your accessions register is your tamper-proof master list of all the objects you own.|
|You keep all documentation relating to disposals.||There is an audit trail in case of later problems.|