What types of documents do museums ask for from donors and dealers in addition to provenance and history?
I think that some important overlooked documents in a museum registrars toolbox would be documents related to the objects provenance and history. Museums can receive a surprising amount of additional information from donors such as object histories, family histories, photographs, and other documentation related to the donated object. Information gathered from donors is filed with the objects registration files and can be used to aid curators and registrars. There is a chance that information gathered might not be true, especially verbal declarations, however failing to gather that information might mean it will be forever lost. Any information gathered is potentially useful. Additionally museums should record and document any research done by curators and registrars to avoid it getting lost as well. Museums are in the business of not only collecting objects but researching and disseminating them for visitor education. Any information gathered by the museum through research or through donor questioning can help aide this process.
Donors can also supply information on the objects provenance through questionnaires, which than then be checked by additional research. If an object is purchased from a dealer the museum might ask for a warranty of indemnification as assurance that the object was acquired by the dealer legally and isn’t subject to any international restrictions. Dealers can also provide customs papers and supporting documents supporting the legality of the object. These supporting documents should not be taken without scrutiny and are subject to additional research by the museum as well, however they can be useful aides to determining provenance, which should be verified before an object is accessioned.
- Article written by Christopher Rahmeh