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Donating to Museums & Dispensing of a collection


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I have a club member that has amassed an amazing collection of toy houses, and their respective components.  I do not have pictures of her collection, and I am working on pure memory... but  I am wondering  if we can have a discussion about donations to museums ...  I was amazed at the depth of her collection.  I do not think that she made any attempt to document it - I can't remember if she has bliss houses, but it seemed that she had a great representation of decades of houses.  She had more houses then I have ever seen in any museum or the museum's books on their collections, and I do have a decent library on miniatures.  (Of course museums do not publish every item in their coffee table books...)  I know the forum is for fine miniatures, but when I saw the post about the Strong Museum, it made me remember...


I hope this is appropriate content for the forum... most of these items were meant to be sold as toys, but some would be considered very collectible; I'm not the person to determine if anything is rare.


I realize the a museums are financial entities, and they can sell donations to offset their expenses and to remain in operation...but what do you see as the pros and cons of donating to a museum?


We discussed donating the collection to IGMA or NAME, but we know that the collection would be auctioned, and since they were toys, and not fine collectibles...it leaves her with a lot of decisions.


Thanks -





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I've done a fair amount of research at museums and have a friend who was a curator. Conversations with my friend Dr. Dan have been interesting and I have learned a bit about how museums function.    Often decisions are made as much or more by the board who come from all walks of life than the Curator or person in charge of acquisitions.


I recently donated  WWII era, unique historic artifacts to a museum after a bit of research.   In my case it was easy to know that a museum was the best home for the artifacts.  


To my mind it is always a "crap shoot" since you never know what a museum will do with the artifact.   Museums are usually short on funds and usually have limited storage.  


If the items are unique, historic and/or important it is more likely the museum will hold on to them.  Items with those qualifications should be in a museum.


Sometimes an item will be enjoyed by more people if it is sold to a collector rather than in a museum vault.


Ask for a written accession/de-accession and loan policy.   Then talk with the curator and maybe a couple of board members to get a feel for the value of the collection to the museum and how they would use it. 


Hope that helps

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