Deaccession Policy

To fulfill the objectives set forth in the Collection Development Statement, the Gallery will implement a deaccessioning process whereby art objects and artifacts are permanently removed from the University's permanent collection. Deaccessioning is considered a proper function of collections management and development. Its purpose is to enhance the quality, integrity, and identity of a collection without violating legal or ethical obligations. 

Criteria for deaccessions 

The decision to deaccession any object from the University's permanent collection is based on, but not limited to these criteria:

  • the object is no longer relevant or useful to the purposes and activities of the University;
  • the University is unable to preserve the object properly;
  • the object has deteriorated beyond usefulness or reasonable repair;
  • the object duplicates other objects in the collection;
  • the object's removal will provide the means for improving or strengthening the collection to further the Gallery's mission and goals;
  • the object is requested for repatriation by aboriginal groups or foreign governments.

Recommendations for deaccessions

The gallery director will submit written recommendations for deaccessions to the Library and Art Gallery Committee, in consultation with faculty in Art & Art History, Anthropology, Religious Studies, and/or other relevant departments and programs. In addition, a written recommendation to deaccession will be submitted to the University’s senior staff, including the Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, and the Vice Presidents for University Advancement and for Finance and Treasurer. The recommendation will include an evaluation of the object and the reason for and method of its proposed removal. Recommendations may require consultation with external scholars, curators, conservators, and/or other experts. Final recommendations for deaccessions must be approved by the University President.

Removal of objects and proper use of funds generated from sales

The object to be deaccessioned will be sold at a widely publicized public auction conducted by a reputable purveyor who will determine fair market value. An independent appraisal may be conducted, if necessary. When applicable and to the extent possible, the University will notify artists, donors, or heirs of the intention to sell. The University will not return objects to original artists, donors, or heirs.
Following the 2016 American Alliance of Museums (AAM) report, entitled “Direct Care of Collections: Ethics, Guidelines, and Recommendations,” proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned art objects will be used strategically for the purpose of acquiring new art objects for the permanent collection or for the direct care of existing art objects in the collection, such as preservation, conservation, and archival museum-standard framing and housing. Digitization projects may also be considered acceptable if such projects extend the life of art objects through reduced handling and wear.

According to the 2016 AAM report, an institution’s “governing authority [shall] place the funds realized from the sale of deaccessioned objects in a segregated or identifiable account” that can accumulate over time in order to make the best strategic use of funds. Therefore, income generated from the sales of artwork through public auction will be placed in a University quasi-endowment. Interest gained from such income will then be added annually to a restricted gallery budget that rolls over from year to year. On certain occasions and with written approval from the Library and Art Gallery Committee and from the University’s President and senior staff, principal income from the account may be used for acquisitions and/or large-scale comprehensive projects, such as appraisals.

Deaccession-related income cannot be used toward the University’s operating or capital expenditures or for gallery staffing, construction, renovations, capital projects, or other major costs normally assumed by the University. St. Lawrence University senior staff, gallery staff, and anyone else involved in the decision to deaccession art objects are not permitted to acquire deaccessioned art objects under any circumstances. Funds from deaccessioning will not be used for personal gain.

Procedures for deaccessioning

Deaccessioning will be documented in writing, and the original documents pertaining to the deaccession will be kept on file permanently with the gallery. In addition, annual inventories of the collection will be updated and sent to University Campus Support Services. The written deaccession record will include:

  • the names and titles of individuals involved in the process, and the date of deaccession;
  • the initial recommendation by the gallery director;
  • the reason(s) for deaccessioning;
  • a description and condition report of the object being deaccessioned;
  • the St. Lawrence University identification number;
  • evidence of clear and unrestricted title of the University to the object;
  • photographic documentation of deaccessioned object.

In cases of repatriation, the following written documentation will also include:

  • a formal request for repatriation by aboriginal group or foreign government;
  • the name and location of the receiving museum, agency, institution, or purchaser, or aboriginal group or foreign country;
  • evidence from the receiving agency, aboriginal group, or foreign country government of their ability to properly care for and use the object;
  • a document transferring clear and unrestricted title to the receiving agency.

The assistant gallery director will note the status of the object as “deaccessioned,” and the object’s accession number will not be reassigned.

Approved by the Library and Art Gallery Committee on December 16, 2016, and by University President William L. Fox on December 13, 2018.