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Collection Management Principles

The following collection management principles are included in the Georgia Museum of Natural History ByLaws. 

Section IV. Definition of collections, accessioning, deaccessioning, and loans 

A. The Georgia Museum of Natural History owns research collections and teaching collections.

  1. Research collections are scientific archival collections in natural history organized by scientific discipline and preservation requirements. Museum collections emphasize Georgia and the southeastern United States and range from intensive coverage of this geographic area, its biotic groups, geological structures, and cultures. Museum collections may also include extensive coverage of the world's biota and broad geological and cultural areas. Museum collections may combine elements of both intensive and extensive coverage. Research collections also include documents, scientific records, and data associated with the specimens. These collections will primarily be used for research and to provide technical services. They may also be used for other purposes if the need arises.
  2. Teaching collections are maintained for academic and public education. At any given time, a small portion of the research collections may also be used for teaching. These may be supplemented by specially purchased or loaned objects.

B. Acquisition involves all transactions by which title to incoming objects is transferred to the Museum or by which the objects come under the professional administrative and curatorial control of the Museum. This includes donations, contributions, gifts, bequests, purchases, exchanges, and other transactions through which title to objects passes to the Museum as well as collection activities by Faculty curators, Professional staff, other employees, and students during the course of research, technical service, and curational activities. 

C. Disposition involves all transactions by which title to outgoing objects is transferred from the Museum to another institution or individual, as well as disposal by intentional destruction. 

D. Accession refers to the specific procedures that are followed in the preliminary process for inventorying new objects into the Museum's collections following acquisition. 

E. Deaccession refers to the specific procedures followed in removing objects from the Museum's collections in preparation for disposition. This is appropriate when items are permanently removed from the Museum with a legal transfer of ownership or are destroyed. 

F. Loans are temporary physical transfer of material from one institution to another where there is no transfer of ownership. Acquisitions and dispositions do not include loans or chain of custody evidence. 

G. Acquisition, deaccessioning, and loan policies apply to both research collections and teaching collections. 

H. Primary responsibility for acquisition, deaccessioning, and loan policies rests with the Museum Director. Advice may be sought from the Executive Advisory Committee. Actions impacting the space, budget, or staffing of the Museum, or involving an ethical or legal issue, may be referred to the Collections Committee.

Section V. Acquisition Policies 

A. Acquisitions will be selective. Due to space and financial limitations it is not feasible to allow indiscriminate growth of collections. Objects or collections that are acquired should meet at least one of the following criteria. 


  1. The objects are relevant to and consistent with the mission and goals of the Museum.
  2. The Museum can provide for storage, protection, and preservation of the objects under conditions that will ensure their availability for teaching, research, and service and that are in keeping with professionally accepted standards.
  3. Acquiring the objects or the collection will not result in foreseen major future expenses for the Museum and that the expenses associated with the acquisition can be handled within the normal annual budget of the collection making the acquisition (i.e., that no further resources will be needed).
  4. The object is not restricted or encumbered by conditions imposed by the owner, donor, consignee, or by the nature of the material itself.
    • Acquisition of certain state and federal collections may require that this policy be waived.
    • Where restrictions apply these will be clearly stipulated in writing.
  5. The objects are unusual enough that they present an exceptional research, service, or teaching resource for the Museum.

B. Priority for acquisitions will be as follows:

  1. First Priority: Objects collected in the context of research or service conducted by Faculty curators, Professional staff, students, and other members of The University of Georgia provided such objects are well-documented and have further research potential. These acquisitions strengthen collection areas in which the Museum has a current specialization and a recognized historical interest. Objects from areas threatened irreversibly by human activities are especially important. Examples of first priority acquisitions are objects of direct use in present or projected research or service; direct use in current educational or exhibition programs; high quality objects needed to fill gaps in the current holdings or to supplement objects of lesser quality; and objects from cultures, biotas, and geologic strata where technological changes and expanding human activity place a time limit on the period in which sampling can take place.
  2. Second priority: To broaden the comparative base of our established collection areas. Examples of second priority acquisitions are archival objects such as voucher objects for published research; synoptic objects from specialists; and objects that will strengthen a collection in a subject area previously established.
  3. Third priority: To obtain collections of a general nature that are within the broad interests of the Museum as expressed by the Museum's mission and goals. Examples of third priority acquisitions are interesting or unique objects of limited use in a scientific sense but with adequate documentation or objects outside the scope of current Museum research collections but that might have direct use in education programs.

C. With very few exceptions, all acquisitions are unconditional. It is anticipated that most acquisitions will occur in the context of on-going collection activities by Faculty curators, Professional staff, other employees of the Museum or of the University, and students during the course of research, technical service, and curational activities by people affiliated with the University of Georgia or the State of Georgia. These would generally automatically become the property of the University of Georgia, the State of Georgia, or an agency of the United States Government covered by on-going repository agreements. In some cases, the objects might be the property of the landowner. 

D. In the case of objects acquired from private sources through donations, contributions, gifts, bequests, purchases, exchanges, or other transactions, the Museum normally cannot accept objects on which the owner has placed restrictions that would prevent effective research, normal educational use, loan, or disposal. The Museum also cannot accept objects with restrictions requiring that they be placed on exhibition or that the collection of which they form a part should be kept together permanently and/or displayed only as a discrete collection. Under extraordinary circumstances, objects can be accepted with the requirement that the Museum retain ownership for a negotiated period of time. 

E. Title to all objects should be obtained free and clear, without restrictions as to use or future disposition. Where restrictions are attached to an acquisition, every effort should be made to place a reasonable limit on the time for which they shall apply and to define the conditions under which their force shall terminate. Such restrictions as may apply to an acquisition should be stated clearly on the accession record and shall be strictly observed by the Museum. Acceptance of a collection with restrictions must be approved by the Museum Director and the Executive Advisory Committee. 

F. A legal instrument of conveyance, setting forth an adequate description of the objects involved and the precise conditions of conveyance and transfer, must accompany all donations and gifts. These should be kept on file in the Museum. 

G. Objects will be acquired only when they have been collected, exported, possessed, and imported in full compliance with the laws and regulations of the country or countries of origin, of the Federal Government of the United States, and of the individual states within the United States. The Museum will refuse to acquire objects where it has cause to believe that the circumstances of their collection involved the recent unscientific or intentional destruction of habitat, sites, or monuments, or where state or federal laws or international treaties have been violated. These standards also will be taken into account in determining whether to accept loans for exhibition or other purposes. Reasonable efforts will be made to ensure that these conditions are met, that title to the object or objects may properly be transferred to the Museum, and that the Museum is current on the changing laws and regulations concerning collecting, ownership, and movement across political boundaries. The Museum will cooperate with authorities of the United States and other countries in legal action against those committing improprieties. 

H. In an attempt to avoid encouraging, even indirectly, trade in illicit or irresponsibly recovered objects, the Museum will not authenticate any object collected in a manner that does not meet the Museum's own criteria for acquisition (See also V. F.). If the Museum should inadvertently acquire an object that is later determined to have been exported or recovered in violation of the Museum's acquisition policy, the Museum will promptly return the object to the owner or transferor, or to the government of the country of origin, or to another appropriate recipient.

I. All objects will be catalogued and documented in Museum records maintained by the appropriate collection under the supervision of a Faculty curator and/or Professional staff. 

J. Any object in the custody of the Museum that is not covered by a signed gift agreement or a signed loan agreement will be known as an unaccessioned item. The proper operation of a museum requires that unaccessioned items be returned to the lawful owner. In the event that the lawful owner cannot be determined or cannot be located after diligent effort, ownership shall be vested in the Museum. 

K. The Museum will not sell objects or collections and only under limited circumstances will the Museum purchase objects for use in academic or public instruction. Most purchases would be by the Friends of the Museum or The University of Georgia Foundation after receiving written agreement from the Museum Director and the Faculty curator/Professional staff member in charge. 

L. Faculty curators, Professional staff, other employees, and students will not give appraisals for the purpose of establishing the tax-deductible value of donations or contributions offered to the Museum. They may verify that a donation has been made, assist owners in finding qualified professionals who can provide appraisals, or direct owners to published sources such as sales catalogues. 

M. Accessioning will otherwise follow the policies and procedures of the specific collection. These procedures should be in writing and on file with the Museum Director. 


A. Over the years, as standards of object documentation change, as the collections grow and objects suffer deterioration, objects that formerly were a significant part of the research collections may become surplus. Removal or culling of such objects from the research collections is a continual and routine process.

  1. Objects have permanency in the Museum as long as they continue to be relevant and useful to the Museum's mission and goals and can be properly stored and curated.

B. Objects may be deaccessioned only when one or more of the following conditions are met:

  1. Objects are no longer relevant or useful to the Museum's mission and goals.
  2. The Museum is no longer capable of properly caring for the objects.
  3. Deaccessioning must be approved by the Collections Committee, the Executive Advisory Committee, and the Museum Director. In some cases, University approval will be required.
  4. The objects are under the ownership or control of a State or Federal agency that formally requests the removal of the material.

C. Before deaccessioning any objects, reasonable effort will be made to ascertain that the Museum is free to do so. Where restrictions are found as to use or disposition of objects under question, the Museum shall act as follows:

  1. Mandatory conditions will be strictly observed unless deviation from their terms is authorized by the donor or a court of competent jurisdiction.
  2. Objects to which restrictions apply shall not be deaccessioned until reasonable efforts are made to comply with the restricting conditions.
  3. If there is any question as to the intent or the force of the restrictions, the Museum will seek the advice of legal council of The University of Georgia.

D. It is the responsibility of the Museum Director to obtain full legal documentation of the terms and conditions of all deaccessions. The disposition of the objects will be marked on the Accession Record and a copy will be placed in the Deaccession file of the appropriate collection. A duplicate copy will be kept elsewhere. 

E. Except in extraordinary circumstances, materials will be transferred only to other public institutions or agencies. By preference, these public institutions or agencies will be in the State of Georgia. Should such institutions or agencies not exist or refuse to accept the materials, objects will be transferred to similar institutions outside the State, with preference given to public institutions where these materials would have research value and be curated following high professional standards. 

F. Priority for deaccessioning will be as follows:

  1. First priority: Redundant material of no research/service value will be offered to the Museum's educational program. If they are not required for the Museum's educational programs, they may be given to other appropriate public educational programs or institutions.
  2. Second priority: Materials which the Museum cannot properly curate for whatever reason.
  3. Third priority: Redundant material of marginal research/service value to the Museum.
  4. Fourth priority: Materials of high research value which are otherwise not used for research at The University of Georgia as evidenced by publications, grants, and graduate student research.

G. If no alternative exists, objects may be discarded completely or destroyed. Such objects for disposal shall have all identifying marks and numbers removed from them and the disposal shall be noted in the appropriate research collection catalogues by the staff in charge. 

H. Objects shall not be given or sold to Museum employees or their relatives or representatives. 

I. Deaccessions will attempt to adhere to the policies and procedures of the appropriate collection. These procedures should be in writing and on file with the Museum Director. 

Section VII. Loans 

A. Loans are only undertaken under the terms of a loan agreement that forms a contract between lender and borrower and specifies terms and conditions of the loan including the respective responsibilities of each party. 

B. In cases where the Museum is the lender loan requests will be considered by the Museum contingent upon the following restrictions:

  1. Loans will not ordinarily be made to private individuals.
  2. The Museum normally participates only in temporary loans and all loans must be for a specified period of time. Written documentation must be made of all loans.
  3. If an extension to the initial period is requested and granted, it must be reviewed annually by the Faculty curator and Professional staff of the collection involved. Written documentation of the extension request must be provided.
  4. The Museum may recall a loan for any reason with 30 days written notice.
  5. Materials are to remain in the same condition in which they leave the Museum. They will not be cleaned, repaired, retouched, or otherwise altered unless prior agreement is made with the Museum and documented in writing.
  6. No loans will be made or accepted when there exists unreasonable risk to the safety of the loan material. The borrowing institution must provide adequate security and an appropriate physical environment for the items loaned.
  7. Objects will be loaned only for the purposes of exhibition, research, or public education.
  8. Circulating educational materials constitute separate category of loan not covered by this policy.

C. The Museum reserves the right to refuse a loan of any specimen. 

D. In cases where the Museum is the borrower, all stipulations required by the loaning institution will be met. 

E. Loans will otherwise follow the policies and procedures of the appropriate collection. These procedures should be in writing and on file with the Museum Director.

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