Acquisitions Policy

It is the Museum’s policy to acquire objects for the Museum’s Artifact, Documentary Multimedia, Teaching, Library, and Props and Furnishings collections through gifts, deferred gifts, bequests, transfers, and purchases for the purpose of promoting the Museum’s mission. Monetary donations and other types of contributions in support of the Museum are not covered under this policy.

Responsibilities for Handling Acquisitions

The Museum Director, Museum staff, designated University Development Officers, University of Illinois Foundation (UIF), Museum Board, and Museum Guild seek to promote and develop relationships with donors towards this goal. They are responsible for notifying the Director who will notify the Registrar as soon as possible of any new potential acquisitions. Museum staff may directly notify the Registrar regarding a potential gift.

The Registrar is responsible for handling potential acquisitions once an offer has been made until completed. The Registrar may designate the Assistant Registrar of Acquisitions to manage and implement acquisitions.

All objects, other than those exempted from Acquisition Review as listed below, that have the potential to meet the requirements of the Acquisition Criteria will be critically evaluated by the Acquisition Committee for acceptance into one of the Museum’s Collections by following the policy and procedures outlined in this policy.

The Acquisition Committee consists of the Director, Registrar, Collections Manager, and Director of Education (or their designee). The Committee may alter the membership of the Committee as appropriate.

Acquisitions Review

The Registrar gathers information and prepares an Acquisition Committee Report for all potential donations. The information presented to the Committee is to include all relevant information required for the Committee to make an informed decision regarding whether the object fits the Acquisition Criteria. The report will include basic description, catalogue information, provenance, images, and staff and curator reviews and recommendations, as well as assessment of cultural, ethnographic, and historical significance.

The Committee reviews the Acquisition Reports and critically evaluates whether the objects meet the Criteria for Acquisitions. The Committee decides to accept each item for the Artifact, Teaching, Library, Documentary Multimedia, or Props and Furnishings Collection. Objects that are not appropriate for any of these collections may be declined or may be recommended for "consumables," a non-collection educational and research use category. The Committee may also recommend additional research if needed to reach a decision. If a consensus cannot be reached, the Director hears all opinions and makes the final decision.

All recommendations by the Committee are presented in the Acquisition Committee Recommendations. The Acquisition Committee has one week after receiving the Recommendations to contact the Registrar with corrections, questions or concerns. After one week has passed, the Recommendations are considered approved. The Recommendations are then submitted to the Director for final approval before any recommendations are implemented.

The Registrar notifies the donor of the Acquisition Committee’s decision and facilitates the signing of the Deed of Gift Form or Memorandum of Understanding indicating transfer of title and documentation of transfer of copyrights as appropriate. If objects have not been previously received, the Registrar facilitates the physical transfer of the objects to the Museum prior to the completion of the Deed of Gift Form or Memorandum of Understanding.

Objects Exempt from Acquisition Review

Several types of objects are exempt from Acquisition Committee review. These objects are otherwise subject to the same processes as other gifts, deferred gifts, bequests, transfers, and purchases. Museum staff are directly responsible for ensuring that these items meet the Acquisition Criteria.

The Director of Education is responsible for objects acquired for the Teaching Collection that are either:

  • educational media such as books, CDs, DVDs, or posters, or
  • objects other than media that are intentionally acquired by Education staff or by other Museum staff in consultation with the Education staff to fill a specific need.

The Registrar is responsible for:

  • objects acquired for the Documentary Multimedia Collection that clearly meet the Acquisition Criteria and would not have a major impact on space, staff, and resources, and
  • objects acquired for the Library collection that clearly meet the Acquisition Criteria, would not have a major impact on space, staff, and resources, and are not appropriate for the Teaching Collection.

Objects that do not fall into the above four categories are not exempt and will be reviewed by the Acquisition Committee.

Criteria for Acquisitions

All objects acquired into the Artifact, Documentary Multimedia, Teaching, Library, and Props and Furnishings Collections are subject to the following criteria:

  1. Objects must be of value in promoting and supporting the objectives and purposes of the Spurlock Museum as set forth in the Museum’s Mission Statement.
  2. Objects must be consistent with the Museum’s Collecting Plan or be a compelling, clearly articulated, and documented exception.
  3. Objects must be authentic, or if an object is a reproduction, mass-produced object, or fake, it must have value for the Museum’s purposes as such.
  4. The cost and expenditure of staff time and other resources in acquiring, researching, transporting, processing, and storing the objects must fit within the Museum’s available resources.
  5. Objects must be of an appropriate size and physical state for which the Spurlock Museum can provide adequate storage space and security.
  6. The condition of the objects must be such that the Spurlock Museum can adequately care for and preserve them, to the best of its ability and within professional standards appropriate to the type of collection.
  7. Objects must be deemed to pose no health risks or other hazards (for staff, visitors, the Museum building and grounds, or Museum collections) that are beyond the ability of staff and facilities to manage.
  8. Objects must be the legal property of the donor, seller, or lender who must have legal authority to transfer ownership, sell, or lend the objects.
  9. Objects must have documentation of origin, provenance, previous ownership, and circumstances of acquisition by owner or adequate accounting of such as determined by the Acquisition Committee and Museum Director.
  10. The acquisition of objects must comply legally and ethically with:
    1. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, November, 1970; Article 9 Convention under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (1983),
    2. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Public Law 101-601; 25 U.S.C. 3001-13; 104 Stat. 3042,
    3. Treaty of Cooperation between the United States and Mexico for the Recovery and Return of Stolen Cultural Properties for Pre-Columbian Artifacts,
    4. Antiquities Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, Public Law 96-95; 16 U.S.C. 470aa-mm,
    5. treaties, memoranda of understanding, or other legal agreements between the United States and other countries regulating importation of archaeological and ethnographic materials,
    6. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), 1977,
    7. African Elephant Conservation Act 16 USCS 4203,
    8. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, 16 U.S.C. 703-712, Ch. 128; July 13, 1918; 40 Stat. 755 and subsequent amendments,
    9. Endangered Species Act of 1973 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, 87 Stat. 884 and subsequent amendments,
    10. Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1943, 16 U.S.C. 668-668d, 54 Stat. 250 and subsequent amendments,
    11. USFW and USDA regulations relating to biological material imported from outside the U.S.,
    12. Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 relating to biological material, Public Law 97-79, 16 U.S.C. 3371-3373,
    13. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407, P.L. 92-522 and subsequent amendments, and
    14. all other applicable local, state, federal and international laws and regulations.
  11. Objects consisting of human remains or sacred materials will not be acquired if it is known by curatorial staff and Acquisition Committee members at the time of acquisition that their presence and use in Museum collections, programs, and/or exhibits is considered to be offensive or inappropriate by the relevant cultural group, whether or not they are governed by public law.
  12. Objects subject to copyright must be accompanied by documentation of the transfer of named copyrights or by documentation identifying copyright status as long as such status is acceptable for the Museum’s purposes in acquisition.
  13. An object cannot be accepted if the object is required to remain in the collection or on exhibit for any period of time or for perpetuity.
  14. Objects must be free of any restrictions or conditions, and exceptions to this criterion will be made only in extraordinary circumstances and in consultation with University Legal Counsel.
  15. Objects must be in compliance with the Spurlock Museum Guidelines for Professional Practices, University of Illinois Policy on Conflicts of Commitment, American Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics for Museums, and the International Council of Museums Code of Professional Ethics.

Acquisition Processing

The Registrar is responsible for completing the processing of the acquisition.

Major gifts, as defined by UIF, will be reported to the UIF. The Museum will collaborate with UIF to ensure that a copy of the appraisal is requested from the donor and delivered to both the Museum and UIF. The total value of the gift amount is provided to the UIF. If the value of the gift is unknown, it is recorded as $1.00. The Deed of Gift or Memorandum of Understanding for major gifts will include a signature from the UIF President and copies will go to the UIF, the Spurlock Museum, and the donor.

For all other Museum gifts the Deed of Gift or Memorandum of Understanding is signed by the Director and the donor. The Registrar reports the appraised value of gifts for all objects that are accessioned into the Artifact Collection to the University of Illinois Property Accounting Office. If the value is not known the Registrar will review similar objects online to identify an estimated value for the gift. The estimated value provided by the Registrar or Assistant Registrar for Acquisitions is for internal purposes only. It is not an appraisal and is not to be supplied to the donors.

Each object is catalogued into a Collection only after a Deed of Gift or Memorandum of Understanding is signed. Deferred gifts to the Artifact Collection will be assigned an accession number despite the fact that title has not been transferred. The Registrar will complete the registration and cataloguing of each object as soon as possible after transfer of title or loan agreement for a deferred gift is completed. The object is registered by the assignment of an accession number recorded in the appropriate ledger and/or database. Objects are physically numbered, photographed, weighed, measured, and documented as completely as possible.