WOODSTOCK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT POLICY
Adopted August, 2017
PURPOSE OF THE POLICY:
This collections policy was created by the Society's Collections Committee, a standing committee of the Woodstock Historical Society (WHS). The policy defines, coordinates, and integrates the collecting efforts of the WHS. The intent of the policy is not to dictate, but to guide decisions so that collections development at the Society will benefit from coordinated and integrated collecting objectives.
COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY:
Proper management of the collections is the responsibility of the Executive Director. He/she will oversee all other staff members and volunteers in these matters and will make regular reports to the Board of Trustees regarding the state of the collections. The following guidelines establish the procedures to be followed by the Executive Director, other members of the museum staff, the Collections Committee and members of the Board of Trustees in undertaking the accession, deaccession and general management of the museum collection.
At least one Collections Committee shall be established by the Board of Trustees as a standing committee to review and act upon the recommendations of the Executive Director in regard to the accession or deaccession of objects by the WHS. Ideally, the committee shall consist of a minimum of five people, including at least one staff member; a quorum is required to conduct business. A quorum shall be a majority of the number of members on the committee at the time. A majority vote of those present is required for making decisions. The Committee shall be chaired by a member of the Board. Non-Board members with appropriate expertise in stewardship, curatorship and management may be on the Collections Committee. The Collections Committee(s) shall meet at a minimum of once a quarter. Updates on current collections activities should be given at these meetings.
The WHS will develop the collection through proactive collecting that targets growth areas; fills gaps in the collection, whether typological, geographic, demographic, or chronological; and anticipates future research and programmatic needs.
The WHS will maintain the integrity of the collection by accepting or retaining only those items that: have strong provenance, are in good condition or endowed with sufficient funds to conserve or restore them, fulfill a specific need, and may be properly documented, stored and maintained.
The WHS may refine the collection by divesting of items that do not fulfill the Society's mission, have suffered such deterioration that restoration is not possible, are damaged beyond repair, are duplicates, have no provenance, or cannot be properly stored and maintained.
SUITABILITY FOR THE COLLECTION: SCOPE, STATUS, INTENDED USE:
When considering a gift for possible accession, the Collections Committee shall consider the item’s 1.) Scope: its time period, significance, provenance, monetary value, geographic locality, place of origin and cultural tradition; 2.) Status: will the item be unrestricted, restricted, accessioned or non-accessioned; and 3.) What is the item’s intended use, whether it be for the Museum, Research, Education Collection or Utility Collection?
All donations shall be unrestricted and not carry any conditions for perpetual exhibition or retention by the WHS.
The WHS will not accept badly damaged (e.g., moldy, smoky, insect infested) or hazardous (e.g., liquids, powders, chemicals) items.
The collecting scope of the Museum currently emphasizes the following:
- The Dana Family – objects related to Charles and Mary Gay Swan Dana and their descendants who lived in the house.
- Living in Woodstock – objects related to demographics, domestic life, family, community, local history, religious life, sports, recreation, the arts, leisure, social groups and education.
- Working in Woodstock – objects related to the changing economic base of the Village and Town of Woodstock, business, manufacturing, mercantilism, tourism, transportation, labor, and scientific and technological development.
- Governing in Woodstock - objects related to politics, elections, citizen action groups, education, governing boards and planning.
- The built environment in the Village and Town – objects related to buildings and their design, architectural style and house form; layout of roads, streetscapes, and materials related to architecture in a broad social and economic context.
- Individuals and their ideas and contributions – objects related to art, literature, medicine, music and philosophy produced by individuals from the Woodstock area.
The collecting scope of the Library, Archives and Images, including manuscripts, ephemera, documents, photographs and books, emphasizes the following:
The Dana Family – materials related to Charles and Mary Gay Swan Dana and their descendants.
Living in Woodstock – materials related to demographics, domestic life, family, community, local history, religious life, sports, recreation, the arts, leisure, social groups, education and institutions.
Working in Woodstock - materials related to the changing economic base of the Village and Town of Woodstock, business, manufacturing, agriculture, publishing, mercantilism, tourism, labor, and scientific and technological development.
Governing in Woodstock – materials related to politics, elections, citizen action groups, education, governing boards, and planning.
The built environment in the Village and Town – materials, including maps, related to buildings and their design, architectural style and house form; architecture in a broad social and economic context; transportation; layout of roads, streetscapes and railroads.
Individuals and their ideas and contributions – materials related to art, photography, literature, medicine, music and philosophy produced by individuals from the Woodstock area.
Tourism in Woodstock – materials produced by residents, visitors and the media, and tourism’s impact on Woodstock.
Planning, land use and conservation – materials produced by residents, visitors and the media.
All of the above with respect to the towns surrounding Woodstock.
Select Vermont history.
Materials that support the work of the staff in interpreting and telling the story of Woodstock.
Museum Collection: This is the central object collection of the WHS. These items are historic objects which tell the history of Woodstock and the Dana family. The goal is to preserve and conserve these objects for future display and research. The Museum Collection can include items up to the present day, reflecting the ongoing history of Woodstock.
John Cotton Dana Research Library: The library includes published books, pamphlets, bound periodicals and other printed materials about the history of Woodstock and Vermont, reference and research materials, and books by and about local families (hereinafter referred to simply as books). This collection includes information up to the present day. The Library is different than the other WHS collections. Most books do not have special intrinsic value, because they are just one of many copies of a published work. The books are also intended to be used for research and other purposes. Because of this different nature of books, they are acquired/discarded, not accessioned/deaccessioned as in the other collections. Those books or other published materials that do have intrinsic value will be separated into Special Collections. These could include first editions, autographed or inscribed copies, items of esthetic importance, special presses or imprints, irreplaceable items, or books with other unique characteristics as determined by staff.
George Goodrow Memorial Photographic Archive: This is the photograph collection, containing important images and historical documents concerning the history of Woodstock. This collection includes information up to the present day.
Archives: This collection contains important historical documents and other ephemera concerning the history of Woodstock. This collection includes information up to the present day.
Education Collection: This collection consists of objects, books, archives and images which have historic significance but may be duplicates, or lack provenance or value. These objects can be displayed and handled during education programs and will be stored in a designated Education area(s). The wear and possible breakage of these objects is acceptable in this education context.
Utility Collection: This collection consists of objects which are being used by the WHS for utility functions. This collection may include objects such as desks, bookshelves, tables, which have some historic value or have been donated to the collection, but are not historically valuable enough to put in the Museum Collection.
The Education and Utility Collection items were never accessioned or, if accessioned, they went through the deaccessioning process.
The Collections Fund is a restricted fund established to provide for acquisitions and direct care of the collections. Direct care of the collections is focused on preservation and defined as enhancing the life, usefulness, or quality of the collection. Money realized from the sale of any deaccessioned item can go only into this fund. Any earnings on this fund are also part of this account. Approval of the disbursement of funds will be made by the Treasurer and the Executive Director.
All prospective donations and purchases shall be examined and considered by the Executive Director and appropriate curatorial personnel. If necessary, the Executive Director shall seek outside expertise to ascertain quality, condition, authenticity, attribution, and value. In considering the possible acceptance of a gift offer, the Executive Director shall also take into account the object's suitability for the collection, requirements of space, maintenance, and any costs associated with the object if it were to be accessioned.
Whenever possible, the Executive Director shall refer all purchase and gift offers to the Collections Committee with a recommendation. If the Committee agrees, the Treasurer will be asked to release moneys from the Collections Fund or from other funds as approved by the Board of Trustees. After approval, purchases of objects shall be made by the Executive Director or his/her appointed representative. In the event that the Executive Director or his/her appointed representative cannot obtain prior approval of the Treasurer, he/she is authorized to purchase, provided that budgeted funds are available and the object is one currently being sought by the Museum, according to the Collections Plan.
Gifts to the Museum, Photographic and Archive Collections:
The gift should be brought to the WHS offices. The following procedures are then followed:
- The Donor and the WHS shall sign a Temporary Custody Receipt (TCR) accepting the unrestricted gift.
- The Donor shall be asked to fill out a questionnaire about the donation.
- The artifact is placed in safekeeping pending review by the Executive Director and the Collections Committee.
- A Temporary Custody record is created in the collections database.
- The Executive Director presents the gift to the Collections Committee at its next scheduled meeting with his/her recommendation and details the reasons for this decision. The Committee will use its expertise to consider proposed gifts and vote to approve or disapprove the acquisition.
- If the gift is accepted, a Deed of Gift form will be sent to the Donor for signature. The cover letter with the Deed of Gift will constitute a Thank You letter for the donation. Depending upon the nature of the gift, a separate hand-written thank you may also be sent.
If the Collections Committee declines to accession the gift, it can only be disposed of in the following manner, per recommendation of the Committee (these options are not in priority order; the choice will depend upon the individual situation):
- Return to donor. The WHS will notify the Donor by certified mail that it will not be accepting the item into its collection and request that the Donor retrieve the gift. The Temporary Custody Receipt states that if the Donor does not respond in 30 days, the Donor relinquishes all claims and interest in the gift and the TCR becomes a Deed of Gift.
- Transfer or sale to another museum or non-profit organization where the object might be more appropriate.
- Use for tours, demonstrations, education, discovery corners, conservation practice, etc.
- Sale at a public auction, other public sale, or event. If the sale is by means of a sealed bid, there must be a minimum of three bids.
The object cannot be disposed of in the following manner:
- Gift or private sale to a staff member, a WHS volunteer, or member of the Board of Trustees.
- Private sale or gift to any single person except the original donor, or his/her descendants.
Gifts to the Library:
The Donor and the WHS will sign a Deed of Gift for the unrestricted gift (i.e., we will not do a Temporary Custody Receipt).
The WHS staff will determine if a book will be acquired or discarded.
The staff will notify the Committee of the books being acquired and have the books available for viewing.
If it is determined that a book belongs in a Special Collection, then the Committee will be asked to formally accession the book.
If a book is to be discarded, it can be disposed of as listed above (e.g., transferred to another library, sold, etc.). However, in addition, it can be sold/optioned to a book dealer. A Discard Checklist will be completed and signed by two staff members and made available to the Committee.
Doorstep donations will be considered the property of the WHS.
Museum staff members are prohibited in their official capacity from providing monetary appraisals to anyone, including donors, trustees, WHS members or museum visitors. Donors of objects to the WHS must always obtain appraisals from an outside source. A staff member may provide referrals to appraisers, but must offer at least two names.
The Museum staff shall prepare and permanently preserve accession records in a timely manner for all objects acquired by the WHS, including copies of gift statements, correspondence, transfer of copyright forms, bills of sale, and other documents relating to the acquisition, including as complete and adequate documentation of each object as can be obtained from the donor. The staff shall also prepare and maintain catalog records for each object in the collection.
ACQUIRING OWNERSHIP OF “FOUND IN COLLECTION” OBJECTS:
The ownership for objects in the WHS which do not have an accession record or deed of gift is questionable. The WHS can claim official ownership of these objects through following the procedures outlined in the Vermont Statutes, Title 27: Property, Chapter 12: Museum Property, sometimes called the Abandoned Property process. The Statute dictates that a museum can claim ownership of an object if it publishes a Notice of Abandonment in its local newspaper for three consecutive months and waits 180 days after the last Notice to see if there are any claims on the object. If there are no claims, then the museum has official ownership
The process described above applies to the Museum, Photographic and Archives Collections and Special Collection books. Other Library books that are “Found in Collection” do not have to go through the Abandoned Property process, because those books do not have intrinsic value.
An inventory will be taken of objects in the Museum, items in storage, and items in the Library and Archives on a regular basis.
Objects in the collection will be stored on site in conditions conducive to the long-term preservation of the object (including temperature, humidity, light, accessibility). If an object cannot be stored on site (e.g., too large), then the WHS should determine if it would be possible to create a space on-site or off-site with proper storage. This could include loaning the item, if it can be cared for appropriately. If not, then the item should be considered for deaccessioning.
Books, archival items, photographs and negatives will be stored in a location with controlled temperature and humidity. Rare or valuable or fragile items will be stored in the vault.
The storage of digital items is a special case. These include items provided to us in digital form or created by the WHS from original documents/photographs. The digital material shall be backed up on two different types of media, such as CD, DVD, thumb drive, external hard drive, cloud. The quality of the backup shall be checked every two years. New backups should be created every three to five years, using newer storage media as they become available.
The WHS will have a fireproof safe in which to store its backup digital records and will also keep a copy in its safe deposit box.
Outgoing and Incoming loans will use a Loan Agreement Form that is signed by the Borrower or Lender and a staff member from the WHS. The form will include terms and conditions, such as insurance and required use of best standards in care and handling of items.
The Collections Committee will be informed of all loans in a timely manner, and a master list will be available for review at any time.
Opened-ended loans, either incoming or outgoing, will not be permitted. The maximum length of a loan will be two years, at which time new paperwork must be signed by the Lender/Recipient and WHS if the term is to be extended.
RELEASE OF IMAGES:
The WHS will make copies of its archival photographic and digital images available to outside parties. These copies may be black & white or color prints on photo paper, .jpg images scanned onto a CD or DVD, or scanned images transmitted via email or other electronic medium. Prices for the images will vary based on: medium, intended use of the image (for example, individual use versus publication), and purchaser (member vs. non-member, commercial vs. non-profit, local schools). Purchasers must sign an agreement specifying and limiting the intended use, acknowledging the conditions under which reproduction rights are granted, and must pay in advance for the images.
The WHS acts as the custodian and/or owner of objects in its collections. The well-being of the collections as a whole may, however, require permanent removal of certain artifacts from the Collection, and may even involve physical discard, or destruction of objects. Deaccessioning will always be carried out in an open and public manner. Accurate and detailed records will be maintained on the process and reasons for each object deaccessioned.
Museum, Photographic or Archive Collections:
An object in these collections, if not under any restrictions, may be deaccessioned, but only under the following procedure:
- The Executive Director or designated staff member shall recommend to the Collections Committee that a particular object should be deaccessioned and shall state the reasons for this recommendation, in writing, on the Deaccessioning Record Form. Such reasons would include, but are not limited to:
The poor condition of the artifact.
The fact that the object does not fit the scope of the stated collecting policy of the WHS.
The object is duplicated in the collections by a better example or is generally available elsewhere.
The object is inherently hazardous to people or to the collections (e.g., nitrate negatives, live ammunition, chemicals).
The potential monetary value of the object will not be considered as part of the deaccessioning review.
- The Executive Director or designated staff member shall exercise due diligence and investigate the status of the object to ensure that there are no restrictions on the gift, and that title to the object resides with the WHS. In the absence of any paperwork regarding the item, the object shall go through the Abandoned Property process.
- The object can only be deaccessioned by a majority vote of the Board of Trustees upon recommendation by the Executive Director and a majority of the Collections Committee. Board members will have reasonable access to items before or at the monthly meeting.
- After a decision has been made to deaccession, the Executive Director will then consider the disposition of the object. An object can only be disposed of in the following manner:
Transfer or sale to another museum, or non-profit organization where the object might be more appropriate.
Use for tours, demonstrations, education, utility, discovery corners, conservation practice, etc.
Returned to the donor, with notice to take appropriate steps if the donor originally took a tax deduction on the object.
Sale at a public auction, other public sale, or event. If the sale is by means of a sealed bid, there must be a minimum of three bids.
Destruction of hazardous or badly damaged objects.
- The object cannot be disposed of in the following manner:
Gift or private sale to a staff member, a WHS volunteer, or member of the Board of Trustees.
Private sale or gift to any single person except the original donor, or his/her descendants, and then only if no tax deduction was taken at the time of the gift. If a tax deduction was taken, and the object will be sold, it can only be done so at public auction or by sealed bid.
- Funds realized from the sale of any collection item will be added to the Collections Fund to provide direct care for the Collections and to acquire other items for the Collections.
- The WHS will keep a complete and permanent record of each object deaccessioned from the collection, including a description and photograph of the object, as well as a copy of all documentation relating to its disposal.
Discarding of Library Books:
If a Library book is part of a Special Collection, then it will be deaccessioned as described above.
If a book is not part of a Special Collection, it can be discarded. The staff will complete a Library Discard Checklist, which will be signed by two staff members and provided to the Committee. This form includes how the book will be disposed of.
Disposal of a book can include sale/option to a book dealer in addition to the other options listed above. Any money realized from a sale will go into the Collections Fund.
Disposal of non-Special Collection books does not need to be approved by the Board of Trustees.
CODE OF ETHICS AND COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT
The WHS will follow the Statement of Professional Standards and Ethics as adopted by the American Association of State and Local History, 2017.