Direct Care of Collections: Ethics, Guidelines and Recommendations

From American Alliance of Museums
Direct Care of Collections: Ethics, Guidelines and Recommendations provides field-wide guidance on the use of proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned objects

Download white paper here

More information on Direct Care on the AAM website here

Guidelines Relating to Unclaimed, Undocumented and Abandoned Property

After two years of the OMA Abandoned Property Task Force conducting extensive research and meetings with Oklahoma museum professionals, the Oklahoma Museums Association Board of Directors adopted the Task Force recommended Guidelines Relating to Unclaimed, Undocumented and Abandoned Property at the September 26, 2012 meeting. These guidelines, developed from other state best practice models, Oklahoma museum professionals input and legal counsel are intended for Oklahoma museums to use as a framework for handling unclaimed, undocumented and abandoned property.

The Oklahoma Museums Association would like to thank:
OMA Abandoned Property Task force members Kristin Mravinec, Chair; Jennifer Holt and Delaynna Trim
Attorney, Michael Joseph, McAfee & Taft
Law Student, Charlotte Hale, University of Tulsa College of Law
The many Oklahoma museum professionals provided input and encouragement to this project.

Download the Guidelines here


It is against the Code of Ethics of museums to place a value on an artifact or collection. Also, know that it is unethical for appraisers to base their fees on a percentage of the appraised value of an artifact or collection. There are three main appraisal organizations: American Society of AppraisersAppraisers Association of America, and International Society of Appraisers. Members of these organizations generally work as individual contractors. Fees are based on the scope of the individual project and should be discussed directly with the appraiser. The Internal Revenue Service Publication 561 on determining the value of donated property including  definitions of qualified appraisal and appraisers can be found at this link.

Additional information which might prove helpful is located at – Art Appraisal Services, IRS. This information includes links to forms and publications, as well as additional resources.

Ivory Ban Information

On July 6, 2016, a near-total ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory went into effect in the United States. The information on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services information sheet is intended to provide guidance for those who wish to buy, sell, or otherwise trade in elephant ivory. It’s important to note that the new regulations do not restrict the personal possession of ivory. If you already own ivory – an heirloom carving that’s been passed down in your family, or a vintage musical instrument with ivory components, those pieces are yours. We know those items created long ago aren’t threatening today’s wild elephants.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services information sheet, which is full of valuable information, will assist museums in understanding the regulations and the effects on their museum collections.

For more detailed information on trade in African elephant ivory see the Endangered Species Act final 4(d) rule for the African elephant, our CITES implementing regulations (50 CFR part 23), Director’s Order 210, and the African Elephant Conservation Act. In addition to the information provided on this webpage, you must also comply with any relevant state laws, and all imports and exports must be accompanied by appropriate CITES documents and meet other U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) import/export requirements.


Preservation of Library & Archival Materials: A Manual Edited by Sherelyn Ogden (Northeast Document Conservation Center) This collection of 50 technical bulletins provides practical information to help museum staff and volunteers plan and implement sound collections care programs. Sections include planning and prioritizing, the environment, emergency management, storage and handling, reformatting, and conservation procedures. Professional illustrations make the “how-to” leaflets easy to understand and use. The complete set of bulletins is available free of charge if you want to download each bulletin separately (a total of 412 pages).

The Northeast Document Conservation Center offers an online course called “Preservation 101: An Internet Course on Paper Preservation.” This self-directed free course is a good way to provide museum staff and volunteers with a basic understanding of collections preservation. They also offer an FAQs section and helpline.

Connecting to Collections has a good source of easily accessed Online Resources Guides.  It is a companion to the Institute of Museum and Library Services Connecting to Collections Bookshelf, a core set of books, DVDs, online resources, and an annotated bibliography that was distributed to OMA. The Online Resources Guide contains links to the most trusted collections care resources on the Web. Use it to find answers to common conservation and collections management questions. While the Guide is not intended to be an exhaustive compilation of all web resources, it is very thorough.

Conserv O Grams are short, focused leaflets about caring for museum objects, published in loose-leaf format. New topics are added as needed and out-of-date issues are revised or deleted. Semiannual supplements will be issued for an indeterminate period.

The Getty Conservation Institute is a philanthropic organization devoted to the visual arts and humanities. Conservation, The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter, is distributed free of charge three times per year to professionals in conservation and related fields and to members of the public concerned about conservation.

It is critical that new museums and historical societies purchase proper archival materials for the exhibition and storage of artifacts, documents, and photographs. The use of poor quality materials including ordinary paper products, cardboard, most glues, adhesive tapes, and unfinished wood will cause permanent weakening and stains and actually accelerate deterioration.

Although there are several archival supply companies, OMA members receive a discount from Gaylord Archival. Gaylord Archival offers a large variety of archival supplies. Persons wanting to preserve family heirlooms will also want to visit this site. Many other businesses offer archival supplies. A partial list can be viewed at the AAM Marketplace.

The OMA Partner Marketplace can be viewed here.  These businesses and organization offer a variety of products and services for museums. 

SOS Save Outdoor Sculpture

SOS – Save Outdoor Sculpture is a community participation program that was started in 1989 by the National Endowment for the Arts – Art in Public Places Program and later became a joint project of Heritage Preservation and the Smithsonian American Art Museum SOS! or Save Outdoor Sculpture. Save Outdoor Sculpture! was launched to document and improve the condition of outdoor sculpture in the United States. Through the survey and subsequent awareness and treatment campaigns, thousands of people of all ages across the United States have rediscovered or learned more about their local sculptures. As a result, many artworks have been saved and many more remain to be rescued. SOS! volunteers provided information and images to create a comprehensive database of the nation’s outdoor sculpture and focus attention on the preservation of public sculptures and monuments. All 31,833 survey reports received through the SOS! program have been entered into the online database.  

In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Museums Association was the coordinating agency for the initial Oklahoma survey which began in 1994 and was completed in 1996. The NEA along with the Oklahoma Arts Council funded the survey in Oklahoma.  In Oklahoma, 326 outdoor sculptures were inventoried. The Oklahoma volunteers documented traditional statues and sculptures, contemporary works, and folk art.  Over 300 works of art were documented with such information as exact location, dimensions, markings, artist, materials, and conditions.  Surveyors noted the sculpture’s environmental setting and condition including serious problems such as rust, staining, missing parts, and evidence of vandalism.  Surveyors photographed each artwork and then conducted research at local libraries, museums, and archives for background information on the artist and sculpture.  Locating the background information and pinpointing the owners of specific works of art was often difficult and time-consuming. 

The initial survey files are still housed in the OMA office, although it is recommended to access the files online at View the SOS website here