Submitted by Samuel C. Morse

Museums frequently sell objects in a process known as deaccessioning.  Most often objects are sold because there are similar works of higher quality in a collection; usually the monies gained from the process are used to purchase works of art in the same area as the ones sold.  On occasion museums or other cultural institutions will sell works (or propose to sell works)  that their director or board believes do not fit with the main mission of the institution.  The monies realized from these sales or auctions is used to increase endowments, undertake much needed repairs, or to acquire works of art very different from those deaccessioned.  In such cases long time supporters of an institution,  scholars or the legal community often raise objections. 


Examine the proposed or realized deaccessioning proposal of the institutions listed below.  Comment on the justification for the sale, the objections raised, and draw some conclusion as to whether or not the sale should proceed, or should have taken place.

Group A                  Philadelphia’s Jefferson Medical College sale of Thomas Eakins’s The Gross Clinic


Group B                  Albright-Knox Museum auction of antiquities and non-Western art


Group C                 Fisk University proposed sale of selected works from the Stieglitz art collection


Group D                 Randolph-Macon Woman’s College proposed sale of American paintings