Art Collection Management

I.                   Scope  

This policy applies to all George Mason University faculty and staff within all academic, administrative and operational departments, offices and units.  This policy creates a framework for management of the Art Collection owned by George Mason University.

II.                Policy Statement

The University Art Collection is a valuable resource for research and scholarship, exhibition, and educational purposes shared by the academic and cultural communities it serves.  The collection also greatly enhances the cultural life and aesthetics of the University and the surrounding region.

The purpose of this policy is to provide proper guidelines and procedures on the management of the University Art Collection including acquisition, accession and deaccession of artwork, and loan policies for its internal and/or external use.  The guidelines outlined in this policy are consistent with the professional standards and best practices defined by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

The Curator of Collections directs the daily management of the University Art Collection.  Any issues pertaining to the University Art Collection, or to any individual piece in the collection, and its use shall be directed to the Curator.

III.             Definitions

Accession – The process of accepting and recording all pertinent information of each acquisition into the university collection.

Acquisition – The gift or purchase of artwork through a donor, artist, gallery, dealer, or auction, or by other means.

Artwork – Original creative work such as a painting, drawing, or sculpture.  Can include decorative arts, design objects, or cultural artifacts.

Curator – One who is responsible for maintaining, handling, and care of all objects in the university collection and their use.

Deaccession – To permanently remove an artwork from the collection through sale, transfer, exchange, or disposal.

Loan – A work that is temporarily borrowed within the university, by the university or by another institution for exhibition, display, or scholarship.

Provenance – The history of ownership of an object through authentication and documentation.  Provenance also can include the exhibition history of the object.

University Art Collection – Artwork that has been acquired, or is on loan, for the purpose of research, education, and exhibition.

IV.              Compliance

 A.   Maintenance and Care

The Curator shall oversee the daily maintenance and care of the University Art Collection and shall maintain a record of where each piece from the University Art Collection is located.  University employees shall consult with the Curator before transporting, handling or installing any piece from the University Art Collection.

 B.   Art Collection Advisory Committee

The Art Collection Advisory Committee is comprised of the Curator and one member from each of the following units: School of Art, History and Art History Department, Regional Campuses, Facilities, and Development who have distinct knowledge of issues relating to the University Art Collection.  The committee will also include one at-large member, to be chosen by the committee, and one member of the School of Arts Advisory Board, selected by the Curator and the Director of the School of Art.  The Curator will serve as the committee Chairperson.  Upon referral by the Curator, the committee will review proposals and make recommendations to the university community regarding: acquisition and deaccession of artwork, commissions, sites for installation, and other issues concerning the University Art Collection. 

C.   Acquisitions and Accession

Acquisitions to the University Art Collection shall be made to strengthen the mission and holdings of the collection for the purposes of research, teaching, curricular development, and exhibitions. Artwork or objects acquired shall be of historical/aesthetic significance and merit and may be added to the collection through gift, bequest, purchase, or exchange following the guidelines described below. Whenever possible, gifts shall be accepted unencumbered, with minimal or no restrictions on their use and with an obtainable provenance.  The University shall make every attempt to ensure that acquisitions have not been acquired illegally or through illicit trade and are not in violation of existing art and cultural heritage laws.

      1.    Gifts and Bequests

Upon an offer of a gift to a faculty member, office, program, department, or college, the potential recipient shall submit an acquisition proposal to the Curator to present to the Art Collection Advisory Committee. The Gift Acceptance Committee must also approve any gift valued over $10,000.  Once reviewed, and approved or denied, the Curator shall discuss the committee’s decision with all parties involved and follow proper procedures to ensure the gift is processed through the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs as well as accessioned into the collection.

      2.    Purchase

Additions to the University Art Collection through purchase or commission by individual departments, offices, or colleges require submitting an acquisition proposal to the Curator. The Art Collection Advisory Committee shall review the proposal and the Curator shall provide a recommendation for its approval or denial.  Upon approval, the designated party shall work with the Curator to assure proper handling, documentation, maintenance, security, and placement of the acquisition.  For each purchase, additional funds will be required for ongoing maintenance of the work. All work purchased with University funds shall become the property of George Mason University and shall be accessioned into the collection.

D.   Deaccession

The deaccession of objects from the University Art Collection is an irreversible act, and therefore requires careful consideration and prudence. Although deaccession is a necessary act in collection development, it shall be considered only to bolster the quality of the collection and advance its mission. The Art Collection Advisory Committee shall review all objects recommended by the Curator for deaccession and shall require additional approval from the Vice President of University Development.  If an object is appraised above $10,000, approval from the Gift Acceptance Committee is also required. Once the object is approved for deaccession, the Curator shall follow proper guidelines for its removal from the collection and keep appropriate documentation.

      1.    Criteria for Deaccession

The criteria listed below may be used to evaluate the need for deaccession. This is not a comprehensive list however, and only provides a basis for consideration. 

•     The object does not meet the criteria for the stated goals and mission of the collection

•     The object lacks historical or aesthetic value

•     The object is found not to be authentic

•     The cost of maintenance or security of the object is beyond the financial capabilities of the university

•     The object is damaged and beyond repair

•     The ownership of the object is in question or was exported or imported in violation of existing law.

      2.    Disposal

The University follows the Virginia Agency Procurement and Surplus Property Manual (Manual) with regard to the sale or disposal of all state property, including artwork.  Objects from the collection shall be disposed of according to the Procedures for Deaccession of Artwork.  The University shall make a reasonable effort to notify donors of objects considered for deaccession and terms, if any, stated in the deed of gift shall be followed. Funds obtained from the sale of objects shall be used only for the purchase of other artwork or maintenance and conservation of the collection. 

E.   Loans

      1.    Internal Loans

Loans (within the University community) of artwork from the collection shall be made at the discretion of the Curator.  Requests can be made directly to the Curator and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If granted, the terms of the loan and the length of the loan period shall be determined by the Curator.

      2.    External Loans

Loan requests from borrowing institutions shall be reviewed by the Art Collection Advisory Committee with a recommendation from the Curator. Requests must be from an accredited institution, professional gallery, and/or museum to be considered. A loan contract and condition report shall be issued with all approved loans and tracked throughout the loan period by the Curator. The borrowing institution shall accept all responsibility for insurance, shipping, and repair costs associated with the loan unless otherwise specified in the loan contract.

The Art Collection Advisory Committee must approve all external loans of artwork to the University.  No such loan shall be permitted without a loan contract and condition report.

V.                 Forms

University Art Collection Acquisition Proposal

VI.              Dates:

      A.  Effective Date:   

This policy will become effective upon the date of approval by the Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance and Provost. 

      B.  Date of Most Recent Review:


 VII.           Timetable for Review

This policy, and any related procedures, shall be reviewed every two years.

VIII.        Signatures


Jennifer W. Davis
Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance

Peter N. Stearns

Date approved: March 13, 2013