Deaccessioning - as practice entailing a physical relocation of an item with the consequence of making the item less accessible to its previous audience - is among the most controversial aspects of museum management. The disposal of items has traditionally been considered a violation of the museum's commitment to preservation and display, but a number of arguments have been advanced to point out its contribution to sustainability, efficiency, and even visitor welfare. As a result, deaccessioning has enjoyed increasing recognition both in academia and the professional world. Nevertheless, the consequences of abusing deaccessioning policies seem dire. Excessively liberal disposal policies may cause the dispersion of cultural heritage as well as managerial misconduct due to moral hazard. We review the arguments typically advanced in support and against deaccessioning and argue that, while considerable damage may result from its abuse, the benefits are compelling and regulations may be effectively employed to prevent pitfalls. In addition, we address the current situation of deaccessioning in Europe and argue that, while the subsidiary principle prevents the European Union from ruling in matters of national heritage, considerable interest exists among academics and professionals, resulting in a growing body of guidelines from national museal associations that present a degree of conformity to each other, and to the international codes of ethics.

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Journal of Cultural Heritage
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Vecco, M, & Piazzai, M. (2014). Deaccessioning of museum collections: What do we know and where do we stand in Europe?. Journal of Cultural Heritage. doi:10.1016/j.culher.2014.03.007