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Original Message:   Re: Corning Museum of Glass -- A Potential Repository for Bead Collections
So I have a slightly different take on this. My sense is that most people's collections are best placed with other collectors, not museums. I have some pretty wonderful beads, but they were largely collected by others collectors and don't come with audit-quality provenance. It's good certainly enough for most collectors; but I think museums will want to (and should) focus more on beads coming out of an archeological context. If most purely academic researchers are never going to be able to use beads sourced from the general art market to conduct serious peer-reviewed research, then do they really want them sitting in some museum? My fear is that even the nicest beads may effectively always be treated as second-class bead citizens in that context, where they would be cherished by a collector.

Now there are some specialty museums that are a little different. I remember being (a small) part of running the Washington DC Bead Museum. There, the history of beads was the topic, the place was run by collectors, and they had access to Jamie’s immense knowledge and the Lankton collection. So they were able to focus on qualitative analysis of bead histories. Other museums focusing on glass manufacturing processes, for example, may likewise be willing to accept items without perfect provenance, because they illustrate the underlying science. Both those places are few and far between, and as we’ve seen, are not necessarily reliable long-term solutions. Now maybe Jamie or a select group of others will have collections that could be taken seriously by a serious museum. But they are a very small part of the overall collecting community. And I would much rather have my beads sent back out into the world on my own timescale than sent to a museum warehouse without the resources (or frankly, the interest) in studying them.

Interesting in hearing from others on this!

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