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Original Message:   My thoughts and experience with museum donation
Like many others I thought giving things to a museum was a permanent condition for the objects given. I gave many beads to the Bead Museum in Arizona over the years. Many of the beads I gave them were unique and better than the ones I retained in my own collection. The Bead Museum was a first rate serious dedicated museum but in the end it was unable to sustain its existence for a host of reasons and its collection was broken up and in some regards cast to the winds. The beads I gave to that museum to preserve forever for the public are now distributed to unknown places, many I suspect in private hands at bargain basement prices. I gave some of my best work to that museum and now it is lost. I won't deny that this has given me no small amount of regret. Jamey is right about museums having no obligation to retain gifts even after they formally access them. So my feelings are these. If you really CARE about the beads you are considering donating do NOT donate them under any circumstances as they then can get sold, given away or who knows what. Museums routinely have loan agreements available and you can loan your beads or your entire collection to a museum on condition that if they wish or need to dispose of them they must be returned to you or your heirs. Think about museums you have visited and have seen paintings or sculpture etc listed as on loan from..... This method protects your investment in the piece itself, in the integrity of your collection , your energy and time and effort to amass work based on your passion and study. The museum gets to have and display the work for a specified or unspecified time but on dissolution of the organization or decision to no longer retain the work, the work must be returned to the donor. If you don't care if the work gets broken up or sold or given away, then donate it and don't look back. But if the work is important to you LOAN IT, and do so under a written agreement of return.
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