8000 University’s Permanent Collections of Cultural Property
The following articulates the University’s policy on the acceptance, acquisition, accession, and deaccession of items of cultural property with respect to the University’s permanent collections.
The Charter of the University vests in the trustees of the Yale Corporation the responsibility for all property and assets of the University. The trustees discharge that responsibility to enhance and safeguard the University’s long-term institutional goals of education, scholarship, and cultural preservation.
Reason for the Policy
Cultural properties are items of artistic, historic, literary, scientific, or other cultural importance.1 Such items are an invaluable part of the University’s history and future and are made available through its museums, libraries, and other repositories to current students and scholars as well as to the scholarly community at large and the general public. The acceptance, acquisition, accession, and deaccession2 of cultural properties with respect to the University’s permanent collections require unique principles and policies that distinguish them from assets held for the purpose of generating financial support and that affirm the intent to hold these cultural properties as a permanent part of the University’s intellectual life.
- The Corporation holds the University’s permanent collections of cultural properties on behalf of the entire University.
- In discharge of its responsibilities, the trustees entrust the University’s permanent collections to the deans, university librarian, museum directors, and the heads of other units having permanent collections of cultural properties (collectively referred to herein as “Directors”).
- The trustees rely on the judgment and discretion of the Directors3 to ensure that Yale’s permanent collections of cultural properties are cared for and are available to meet the needs of students, scholars, and the general public.
- The trustees require the Directors to take into account relevant professional standards and practices in exercising their judgement and discretion.
- A Director will determine whether assets proposed for donation or purchase are of the quality and nature appropriate for that particular permanent collection. Subject to this and other Yale policies, the Director may accept donations of or acquire such assets.
- The University from time to time receives gifts of property that the donor does not direct to a particular collection, or that the donor designates for a unit that does not hold permanent collections. In these cases, the provost, or their designee, will determine whether and on what terms the item may be offered to the Director of a unit maintaining a permanent collection of similar items.
- In considering the possible acceptance or acquisition of cultural property, the Director should, as a routine matter, take into account the requirement of space and maintenance and other costs associated with the cultural property as well as its value to the permanent collection.
- In the case of an acquisition, the Director should strive to ensure that the unit has sufficient funds to support such costs and, in the case of a donation the Director should strive, when it is appropriate, to ensure that a donor provides sufficient funds to support such costs.
- While there may be items whose intrinsic value and value to a collection are so high as to justify acceptance or acquisition without identified or additional financial support, acceptance or acquisition made without such support erodes the base of support for other assets, and therefore the willingness to accept a donation or make a purchase depends not only upon its intrinsic quality but on some consideration of the adequacy of its support.
- Where a prospective donation or acquisition would, in the opinion of the Director, carry with it a substantial risk of imposing significant costs upon the unit, or upon the University as a whole, and such costs will not be met by a donor or where a donor wishes to impose particularly burdensome restraints or conditions, the Director must consult with the provost, or their designee, and the general counsel or their designee as appropriate, as to whether the Director may accept the donation or make the purchase.
- While a Director should generally seek unrestricted donations of cultural properties, in the event a restricted donation is accepted, the Director will be responsible for honoring any restrictions and exercising care with regard to the donor’s intentions.
- When evaluating a potential donation or acquisition of cultural property, the Director, any relevant acquisitions committee, and relevant collection staff will undertake diligent efforts to determine the provenance of the cultural property. The Director and any relevant acquisitions committee must also consult with the general counsel or their designee as needed regarding applicable laws, and with the provost or their designee on any questions that might bear on the University’s reputation with respect to ownership of such item
- In general, a Director will only accept or acquire cultural properties that are appropriate for accession into one of the University’s permanent collections. On occasion, a Director, in consultation with the provost, or their designee, may accept donations or make acquisitions that may not be of immediate value to the permanent collection or otherwise meet the criteria of this policy and that therefore are not accessioned into the permanent collection. The Director may sell such assets in accordance with Yale policies to provide funds for the support of that or other units of the University.
- The Directors, as established by the respective unit’s collection management policy and bylaws, and with the approval of the provost or their designee, as part of their normal responsibility and to the extent permitted by the terms of a donation, should sell, donate, trade, or dispose of items of cultural property in their permanent collections that have no substantial educational or cultural value, are duplicates, or for which the physical condition of the work is so poor that restoration is not practicable or would compromise the work’s integrity or the artist’s intent.
- The Directors, in consultation with the general counsel or their designee and with the approval of the provost or their designee, will deaccession items of cultural property in their permanent collections if the University determines that possession of such item is contrary to law or otherwise contrary to the University’s mission.
- Before selling, trading, or disposing of cultural property, the Director should consider transferring the cultural property to another University unit.
- The University has no intention that cultural property should be sold to support the daily operations of the University. Yale’s great collections could never have been assembled if the Corporation’s policy were otherwise.
1 In addition to permanent collections of cultural properties, the Library acquires materials that are not intended to be held permanently, such as multiple copies of the same book for classroom instruction. These temporary collections are outside of the scope of this policy.
3 As used in this policy, the term “Director” can include the Director’s designee, or the Director and the unit’s acquisitions committee (as established by the respective entity or unit’s bylaws or Collections Management Policies).