Museums, values & deaccession



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MUSEUMS,

VALUES &

DEACCESSION



Master Thesis


Name: Diane van der Meer

Studentnumber: 295244


E-mail: 295244dm@eur.nl
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
Faculteit der Historische en Kunstwetenschappen

Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen

MA: Cultural Economics & Cultural Entrepreneurship



Supervisor: Prof. Dr. A. Klamer

Second Reader: Dr. B.J. Langenberg

Date: 17-08-2009

A RESEARCH INTO THE VALUE DISCOURSE OF MUSEUMS

IN THE NETHERLANDS

Index



  1. Keywords 4

  2. Abstract 5

  3. Introduction 6

3.1 Research Question 7

3.2 Method 7

3.3 Discourse Analysis 10

3.4 Dissemination 11



  1. Economic, Social and Cultural Values 12

4.1 A Framework 13

4.2 Economic Values 15

4.3 Social Values 16

4.4 Cultural Values 17



  1. The Art World 19

5.1 Art, Artists, Art Institutions 19

5.2 Economic Values Unimportant? 21

5.3 Denial of Economic Values? 22


  1. Museums: Deaccession 25

6.1 The Functions of Museums 25

6.2 Collection Management 28

6.3 Deaccession 29

6.4 Deaccession and Values 35

6.4.1 Social Values 36

6.4.2 Cultural Values 38

6.4.3 Economic Values 39


  1. Deaccession in Practice 45

    1. Marijke Brouwer – ‘Museum Het Valkhof’ 46

7.1.1 Discourse Analysis 50

    1. Wilbert Weber – ‘Zeeuws maritiem muZEEum’ 52

7.2.1 Discourse Analysis 57

    1. Karel Schampers / Anke van der Laan – ‘Frans Hals Museum’ 59

7.3.1 Discourse Analysis 63

    1. René Dekker – ‘Naturalis – Nationaal Historisch Museum’ 65

7.4.1 Discourse Analysis 69

    1. Jan Teeuwisse – ‘Museum Beelden aan Zee’ 71

7.5.1 Discourse Analysis 74

  1. Conclusion 77

    1. Limitations and Further Suggestions 79

  1. References 81

    1. On Economic, Social and Cultural Values 81

    2. On Museums and Deaccession 82

    3. On Research Methods 86

  1. Appendix 1 – The Interview 87

  2. Appendix 2 – Interview Results 88

11.1 Marijke Brouwer – ‘Museum Het Valkhof’ 88

11.2 Wilbert Weber – ‘Zeeuws maritiem muZEEum’ 93

11.3 Anke van der Laan – ‘Frans Hals Museum’ 100

11.4 René Dekker – ‘Naturalis – Nationaal Historisch Museum’ 104

11.5 Jan Teeuwisse – ‘Museum Beelden aan Zee’ 111


  1. Appendix 3 – Statement Karel Schampers – ‘Frans Hals Museum’ 119

12.1 Statement 119

12.2 Notes 119



  1. Keywords


Deaccession:

‘[D]onation, exchange, deposit, sale or destruction of objects from the collection’ (Bergevoet et al. 2006:17).

Notice that in this master thesis the term ‘deaccession’ will only be used to refer to the selling of objects from the collections of museums.
Values:

The beliefs and moral principles, which provide the framework for our thinking and being and our expression of worth (Throsby, 2001:19).


Economic values:

The worth, i.e. price or exchange value, that individuals or markets assign to commodities (Throsby, 2001:19).

Economic values are associated with money, profit, wealth, income, economic growth, efficiency and so on. (Klamer, 2002).
Social values:

The worth that individuals assign to interpersonal relationships and ‘connection’ with others (Klamer, 2002 & Throsby, 2001:29).

Social values are associated with identity, social distinction, being member of a group, solidarity, love, friendship and so on (Klamer, 2002).
Cultural values:

Values that evoke qualities above and beyond the economic and social (Klamer, 2002). Cultural values encompass aesthetic, spiritual, historical, symbolic and authenticity values (Klamer, 2002).

Cultural values are associated with inspiration, the sublime, beauty, sacredness, experience and so on (Klamer, 2002, 2006:44-45).


  1. Abstract

Museums are the preservers of our cultural heritage. Museums have important social values and cultural values. For this reason the deaccession of museum objects is a disputable subject in the Netherlands. Museum directors, other professionals, the government and the media mention different arguments for and against deaccession. The perspectives on deaccession differ, because people base their arguments on different beliefs and moral principles, i.e. values. There are for instance people who reject the deaccession of museum objects, because we should preserve our cultural heritage for our future generations. These people are inclined to the social values of museum collections. On the contrary, there are people that perceive deaccession as a tool to improve the quality and strength of the collection. In that case cultural values lead to the acceptance of deaccession. Interesting, however, is the fact that in the literature and in the museum field economic values seem to be absent in the conversation about deaccession. The question is whether economic values are simply less important than social and cultural values or if economic values are denied, as in most of the art world?

After starting of with a literature research, the assumption is that economic values must be at stake in case of deaccession. Museums are stimulated to be entrepreneurial, efficient, market-oriented and income-seeking. Museum professionals must be aware of the high costs, including the high opportunity costs, of the preservation of our cultural heritage, especially during a time of economic crisis. Although the ethical code for museums and other guidelines for the museum field reject the importance of economic values, many cases of deaccession in the past have shown that museum directors are rational, economic human beings.

The empirical research of this master thesis did also confirm this assumption. I have talked to the museum directors of ‘Museum Het Valkhof’, ‘Zeeuws maritiem muZEEum’, ‘Frans Hals Museum’, ‘Naturalis - Nationaal Historisch Museum’ and ‘Museum Beelden aan Zee’. Four out of five museum directors portrayed economic values. They actually talked extensively about the surplus value of their museum and collection, the market value of museum objects, the opportunity costs of preservation, the influence of limited financial means, the sale of objects for the highest price, the use of auctions, the financial and managerial burdens of collecting, the efficient use of money, the efficient use of space and the efficiency of deaccession. Economic values are important therefore in the conversation about deaccessioning museum objects and should receive more attention. Even so, economic values are not the most important. All museum directors are in the end mostly inclined to the value of their museum to society and to the quality of their collection. Economic values are, however, a necessary mean to accomplish these social and cultural ends.




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