Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emergency Regents amendment on collections management

FROM: David Palmquist, Head, Museum Chartering
SUBJ: Emergency Regents amendment on collections management

Dear Colleague:

The Board of Regents will consider an emergency amendment to Regents Rule §3.27 on collections management policies at its December meeting.
The Cultural Education Committee will meet to discuss and act on the proposed regulation on Monday, December 15, from 2:45 to 4:15 PM, in Room 146, Education Building, Albany. The meeting is open to the public but there is no provision for public comments.

If approved in December, the emergency rule would become effective on
December 19, 2008, and would remain in effect for 90 days. We
anticipate presenting the amendment for adoption as a permanent rule at the March 2009 Regents meeting.

I invite your comments and am prepared to answer your questions.

The full text of the proposed amendment and attachments is on the Regents web page at

Click on "Materials for the December 2008 Meeting of the Board of Regents" then "Cultural Education" and then "Emergency Amendment of Regents Rule 3.27 Relating to Museum Collections Management Policies" and select either HTML or Word format.
TO:Cultural Education Committee
FROM: Jeffrey W. Cannell

Issue for Discussion

Should the Regents adopt an emergency amendment of §3.27 of the Rules of the Board of Regents, relating to museum collections management policies?

Reason for Consideration

Implementation of Regents policy.

Proposed Handling

The proposed amendment is before the Cultural Education Committee for discussion and recommendation to the Full Board for emergency action in December.

Procedural History

The proposed amendment has been recommended by the State Education Department and State Museum management to protect collections held by museums and historical societies in financial difficulty.

Background Information

Regents Rule §3.27 provides standards for chartered museums and historical societies. Sections 3.27 and 3.30 were first promulgated effective March 1971, and the Regents added a collections management policy requirement effective July 1998. The March 2006 amendment greatly expanded the standards by providing increased oversight for collections and resources held in the public trust.

In the current financial downturn, museums face deficits that threaten to cancel programs, cut hours and close doors. A large deficit could threaten a museum’s existence and send the trustees to court for bankruptcy protection or other disposition, which could result in a court-directed sale of all or part of a museum's collection to satisfy the museum's outstanding debt.

We believe current Regents Rules on collections are inflexible if a museum faced a sudden, unexpected and critical financial reversal. We don’t want a major museum to close, and don’t want to lose collections held in the public trust to debt.

The emergency provisions would apply to chartered museums and historical societies authorized to own and hold collections under Rule §3.27, and would:

●Enumerate the specific criteria under which an institution may deaccession an item or material in its collection.

●Allow the Regents to grant an exception to allow deaccession of an item or material deemed part of the museum’s collection, by sale or transfer to another museum or historical society in New York, and allow proceeds from deaccessioning to be used to pay outstanding debt, provided the institution demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Regents that the sale or transfer is necessary to pay outstanding debt that would otherwise threaten the ability of the institution to continue to operate and carry out its mission.

●Remove the option allowing an institution to designate a structure as a collections item; but keep intact any such designation made by vote of a board of trustees prior to November 15, 2008.

●Specify that no proceeds from deaccessioning may be used for capital expenses, except to preserve, protect or care for an historic building previously designated as part of the institution’s collection, as above.

We will ask constituents to comment on the proposed amendment through a mailing with cover memo, announcements on web sites, and copies sent to listservs and electronic mailing lists.

The proposed amendment is being presented for adoption as an emergency action. A Statement of Facts and Circumstances Which Necessitate Emergency Action is attached.


It is recommended that the Board of Regents take the following

VOTED: That paragraph (7) of subdivision (a) and paragraphs (6) and (7) of subdivision (c) of section 3.27 of the Rules of the Board of Regents be amended, as submitted, effective December 19, 2008, as an emergency action upon a finding by the Board of Regents that such action is necessary for the preservation of the general welfare in order to protect the public’s interest in collections held by a museum or historical society in financial distress by immediately establishing procedures to permit the institution, with the approval of the Board of Regents, to sell or transfer items or material in its collections to another museum or historical society for purposes of obtaining funds to pay outstanding debt, and thereby provide an alternative to the institution's bankruptcy or dissolution, and the possible loss or liquidation of a collection because of debt.

Timetable for Implementation

If approved in December, the emergency rule would become effective on
December 19, 2008 and would remain in effect for 90 days. It is
anticipated that the proposed amendment would be presented for adoption as a permanent rule at the March 2009 Regents meeting.

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