Museums and the Disposals Debate

With collecting for perpetuity no longer necessarily the norm, and active disposals as much a part of collections management as accessioning, Museums and the Disposals Debate brings together international guidance, opinion, best practice and case studies in deaccessioning and disposal policies and practice. How museums react to their changing role - from public collector to effective  manager - and how they review the purpose and role of their collections, will shape the future of the museum sector. What are the issues in relation to disposals, and how can the benefits be weighed against the challenges and pitfalls?

This major book, over 600 pages, is a timely addition to current deaccessioning and disposals policies and programmes. Its intention is to be a valuable advocate, critical friend and information source for museum managers and collection specialists across the sector. The book brings together a range of authoritative, experienced and thought-provoking voices from leading international organisations.

The book is in five main sections: The Debate, Specialist Collections, Case Studies, Policy & Practice, and Managing Collections. Among the many issues covered are:

  1. The challenges and benefits of disposals.
  2. The new role of disposals in modern collections management.
  3. Designing and implementing an effective, practical disposals policy and programme.
  4. Ethical, legal and moral implications of disposing of collections.
  5. The repercussions of disposals mismanagement.
  6. Public and professional reaction to the disposal of collections.
  7. Developing an objective collections review framework.
  8. Managing collections-specific disposals.
  9. Influencing and managing public opinion on museum disposals.
  10. Consulting with stakeholders on disposal policies and programmes.
  11. Case studies of recent disposal programmes.

 1: The Debate

Disposals Debate: Dissent and Dilemma
Peter Davies | Canterbury City Council, UK

Disposing Material: information Lost or New Perspectives Gained?
Dayna L Caldwell | Savannah College of Art & Design, GA, USA

De-accessioning in Practice: How to Make Sure We Get It Right
Bendor Grosvenor | Philip Mould Fine Paintings Ltd

Just Say No: You Cannot Be Too Careful In Embracing Disposal
Tiffany Jenkins | Institute of Ideas

Deaccession and Disposal: The Theory in Context
Jessica Hadfield | East Grinstead Museum & Crawley Museum, UK

Disposal as an Essential Tool for Collections Management: The Legal, Ethical, and Practical Case for Deaccessioning
Mychal Brown | Museum Studies, University of Leicester

2: Specialist Collections
Museums, Human Remains and Disposal
Bryan Stitch, Manchester Museum, UK

Disposals in Built Heritage: Destruction or Rational Action?
Janne Vilkuna, Pirjo Vuorinen, Jaakko Holma & Riikka Mäkipelkola | Jyväskylä University Museum, Finland

3: Case Studies
Disposal? How to Run a Democratic Exhibition
Subhadra Das & Jayne Dunn  | University College London, UK and Emma Passmore | British Museum

No Longer the Devil's Handiwork: Deaccessioning at Glenbow
Daryl Betenia, Gerry Conaty, Lorain Lounsberry, Lia Melemenis & Cathy Herr | Glenbow Museum, Canada

Too Much of a Good Thing: Lessons from Deaccessioning at National Trust Historic Sites
Terri Anderson | National Trust for Historic Preservation, USA

Deaccession and Disposal: Practice and Potential at East Grinstead Museum
Jessica Hadfield | East Grinstead Museum & Crawley Museum, UK

Section 4: Policy and Practice
The Politics of Trust: The Managerial Implications of Breaking Donor Stipulations
Rebecca Campbell | Freer-Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, USA and Ximena Varela | The American University, Washingtom DC, USA  

The Practical and Legal Implications of Efforts to Keep Deaccessioned Objects in the Public Domain
Stefanie Jandl & Mark Gold | Parese & Sabin LLP, MA, USA

Why the AAM Should Look to the Revised Disposal Policy of the UK Museums Association for Guidance
Helen Wirka | Carlyle House Historic Park, VA, USA

The Valuation and Evaluation of Collections in Germany
Gerrit B Stevens | University of Frankfurt, Germany

The Application of Deaccessioning Policies in UK Museums
Katherine R Groninger | Museum Studies, University of St Andrews, UK

Subtracting Collections: Practice Makes Perfect (Usually)
Steven Miller | Museum Professions Program, Seton Hall University, NJ, USA

Strategic Collections Management
Paul Fraser Webb | Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, UK

Deaccessioning in Perspective
Errol van de Werdt | Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands

5: Managing Collections
Reviewing Significance: A Framework for Assessing Collections’ Significance, Management and Use
Caroline Reed | Caroline Reed Consulting, London, UK

Disposals Protected by Values: Museums as Owners of the Process
Nina Robbins | Art Historian and Conservator, Helsinki, Finland

Significance Criteria: A Potentially Strong Collection Management Tool to Assess History Collection Accessions and Deaccessions
Laurel Racine | Northeast Museum Services Center, National Parks Service, MA, USA

From Aircraft to Stamps: The Imperial War Museum Collections Review
Emily Dodd | Head of Collections Review, Imperial War Museum, London, UK

On the Road to Nowhere and Other Collections Development Debacles
Franz Klingender | Canadian Agriculture Museum, Ottawa, Canada


Peter Davies, Cultural Policy Advisor to Canterbury City Council, has a long-standing interest in how strategy and policy can create a more sustainable museum sector. With an interest in disposals born from a growing understanding of the value of collections versus the cost of management, Peter is a museum professional with a decade of experience at both practical and strategic levels.

This comprehensive volume is an indispensable resource for museum professionals grappling with deaccession issues and for museum and heritage studies students preparing to do so. Informed by diverse international perspectives on policy and practice, the essays offer frank analysis on a topic too long mired in media hype. Contributors scrutinize the complexities and contradictions of disposal to support museums in making ethically informed, transparent and participatory decisions about the long term sustainability of collections. The scholarship is certain to lead to more informed and productive conversations on responsible collections management.

Janet Marstine, 
Lecturer and Programme Director, 
School of Museum Studies, 
University of Leicester

This volume provides a very timely and internationally wide-ranging series of contributions to the disposals debate - essential reading for professionals and students interested in this important issue.
Nick Merriman, Director, Manchester Museum

Title: Museums and the Disposals Debate
Editor: Peter Davies
Pages: 644  
Illustrations: 32
Size: 216 x 140mm
Date: 2011
Editions: £59.95 [paperback] | £39.95 [eBook]
ISBN: 978-1-907697-27-2 [paperback]

Problem ordering online? Please email

Question? Email us:

Guarantee: We offer all our readers an unconditional guarantee: if, at any time, you decide this book’s not for you, simply return it to us for a full and prompt refund. 


Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with the latest releases, book extracts and free Reading Room chapters.