Overview: Acquisition Policy

In support of its mission and vision "We exist to invite all people to engage with the Bible," the Museum acquires, through purchase, gift, or bequest or exchange, individual objects and collections that build upon its existing strengths, while recognizing the necessity to extend chronological boundaries and accommodate new media. The Museum is committed to the principle that all collecting be done according to the highest standards of ethical and professional practice.

The Museum is guided by the principles and laws that concern the following:

A.    Acquisition Generally

1.     The first responsibility of the Board of Trustees is to protect and develop the assets of The Museum. The chief goal of the Board is to acquire distinguished, high quality artifacts in accordance with The Museum’s Collecting Policy. It is the responsibility of the Board to renew and establish these goals. From this it follows that the Board is responsible for providing adequate, dependable funding in a manner that enables the MOTB to accomplish its goals.

2.     In their deliberations, the Museum President, the Executive Committee, and the Director of the Collection are guided by the following policies, among others, in determining the appropriateness of objects to be added to the permanent collection:

a.     The object must conform to and be consistent with established collecting goals of The Museum.

b.     Priority should be given to accepting or acquiring objects of unusual quality or rarity, which integrate with and fill a need in the collection, and do not unnecessarily duplicate items already in The Museum’s collections.

c.     No object should be acquired if The Museum is unable to give it proper storage, protection and preservation.

d.     The Museum should comply with all applicable local, state, and federal U.S. laws, most notably those governing ownership and title, import, and other issues pertinent to acquisition decisions.

e.     The Museum should thoroughly research the ownership history of a work prior to its accession, including making a rigorous effort to obtain accurate written documentation with respect to its history, including import and export documents.

f.      Where a work is being imported into the U.S. in connection with its acquisition by The Museum, import documentation should be obtained and compliance with the export laws of the country of immediate past export to the U.S. should be confirmed.

g.     No object should be acquired if its record of provenance is unsatisfactory or if there is any question concerning legal transfer of title. 

For Nazi-Era Provenance

Following the Report of the AAMD Task Force on the Spoliation of Art During the Nazi/World War II Era (1933-1945) (dated June 4, 1998 and April 30, 2001) and the AAM Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era (dated November, 1999 and April, 2001), the Museum will, as part of the standard research on each acquisition, ask sellers, donors, and estate executors to provide as much information as possible with regard to the Nazi era. Where Nazi-era provenance is incomplete or uncertain, the museum will consult available records as well as publications and databases that track illegally appropriated art. In the absence of evidence of illegal appropriation, the work is presumed not to have been illegally appropriated and the acquisition may proceed. The Museum will not acquire a work of art if there is evidence of illegal appropriation without subsequent restitution or other satisfactory resolution of title.

For Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art

Following the AAMD Report on the Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art (dated June 4, 2008), the Museum recognizes the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (dated Nov. 17, 1970) as providing the most pertinent threshold for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art. The Museum will therefore not normally acquire archaeological materials and ancient art unless research substantiates that the work was outside its country of probable modern discovery before Nov. 17, 1970, or was legally exported from its country of probable modern discovery on or after Nov. 17, 1970.

i.       Where even after the most extensive research, a work lacks a complete documented ownership history, the Museum may acquire it only if:

1.     Based on the results of provenance research, the museum can make an informed judgment that the work was outside its probable country of modern discovery before 1970 or legally exported from its probable country of modern discovery after 1970, or

2.     The cumulative facts and circumstances known to the Museum after compliance with the above procedures allow it to make an informed judgment to acquire the work, consistent with the Statement of Principles above. Examples of such facts and circumstances include, but are not limited to:

a.     The number, place and circumstances of independent exhibition(s) of the work;

b.     The number, type and circulation of publication(s) of the work;

c.     The length of time and place of public display(s) of the work;

d.     The provenance history of other works excavated from the same site or area;

e.     The prior owner(s) of the work and any claims made against them with respect to other works; and

f.      Communications regarding the work between the country of modern discovery and the current owner, a prior owner, or the Museum.

ii.      In the circumstances described in Item 2.g.i above, the Museum will carefully balance the possible financial and reputational harm of acquiring the work against the benefit of collecting, presenting, and preserving the work in trust for the educational benefit of present and future generations.

iii.     In the circumstances described in Item 2.g.i above, the Museum will post on the AAMD object registry an image of the work (or representative images in the case of groups of objects) and its provenance as well as an explanation of why the acquisition of the work is consistent with the policies and procedures.

h.     Title to all objects acquired for the collections should be obtained free and clear without restrictions as to use or future disposition.

i.       No object should be accepted with an attribution or circumstances of exhibition guaranteed in perpetuity.

j.       The Museum reserves the right to accept or refuse any donation of collection material or any part thereof made to it.

B. Acquisition by Gift or Donation

3.     Funds available to The Museum for the purchase of artifacts are subject to the control of the Board, but may be appropriated to the Director of the Collection by the Board at its discretion.

4.     The Curator or Director proposing the donation will recommend whether to accept or decline a gift or bequest to the Director of Collections in writing. Each acquisition proposal will be accompanied by a written recommendation from the relevant Curator to the Department head or Director that:

a.     Provides pertinent (“tombstone”) information about the object, including a basic description of the work, materials, date, seller/donor and suggested credit line,

b.     Describes the importance of the object in the context of the Departmental Collection Strategy,

c.     Provides donor information (for gifts and bequests)

d.     Provides all available provenance information.

e.     If possible, each acquisition proposal will also include a written condition report from the Registrar that addresses:

i.       Authenticity of materials and/or technique, condition, and

ii.      Any significant costs or factors relating to conservation, installation, and storage.

f.      As part of its standard procedure for all proposed gifts, the Museum will:

iii.     Require sellers, donors, and their representatives to provide all information of which they have knowledge, and documentation that they possess, related to the work being offered to the museum, as well as appropriate warranties.

iv.    Substantiate the account of ownership history provided by the donor or vendor by obtaining documentary evidence of an object’s provenance (including, but not limited to: a dated bill of sale or sales receipt, will, inventory, auction catalogue, published reference, exhibition record, correspondence, photograph), or, in exceptional cases, if documentary evidence cannot be obtained, a signed statement from the donor or vendor that confirms the accuracy of the account.

v.     The Director must ensure that best efforts are made to determine the ownership history of a work of art considered for acquisition. The Director must not knowingly allow to be recommended for acquisition – or permit the museum to acquire – any work of art that has been stolen (without appropriate resolution of such theft) or illegally imported into the jurisdiction in which the museum is located.With respect to acquisitions covered by Section 2.g.i above, the Director must cause the posting contemplated under the section to be made.

5.     Artifacts offered as gifts, from whatever source, are presented to the Museum President and the Executive Committee by the Director of the Collection with his/her recommendation. The Executive Committee may follow or reject the Museum President’s recommendation, except that it may not direct that an item be entered into the permanent collection without the concurrence of the Museum President.

6.     Objects will not be re-housed, preserved, cataloged, or made available for use by researchers until ownership has been transferred to The Museum.

7.     Unsolicited objects offered as potential acquisitions for the Museum's collections are considered to be in the temporary custody of the Museum. If the acquisition of an unsolicited object is approved, the object will be formally accessioned into the collections and the Temporary Custody document will be retained in the object accession file.

8.     Unsolicited objects dropped off at The Museum are not required to be accepted. Unwanted, unsolicited objects will be returned to the source, if the source is known. If the source is not known, Museum staff will attempt to locate an appropriate repository for the object and if unsuccessful, the object may be considered abandoned property under the meaning of the Oklahoma Uniform Unclaimed Property Act, and action will be taken according to these regulations.

9.     The Director of the Collection will insure that a valid “Deed of Gift” is created to document transfer of ownership for works of art acquired by The Museum, and that valid provenance documents are secured for items donated to The Museum. These documents will describe the object(s) to which they pertain, record the value or purchase price, convey title and ownership to The Museum, and in the case of gifts, be signed in agreement by the donor(s) and duly authorized officer of The Museum. Deeds of Gift and Bills of Sale will be filed in each object’s permanent records.

10.    A letter of thanks to a donor from the Director of the Collection, or an appropriate form, along with a signed copy of the Deed of Gift, will operate as the official receipt for the donor’s purposes. It will set forth an adequate description of the objects involved and the conditions for transfer as a gift.

11.     Records of accession should be made and retained for all objects acquired, including instrument of conveyance signed by the donor; adequate description of all objects in an accession; and as complete and adequate documentation of each object received and its history as can be obtained from the donor.

12.    If the Museum, as a result of its continuing research, gains information that establishes another party's right to ownership of a work, the Museum shall bring this information to the attention of the party, and if the case warrants, initiate the return of the work to that party. In the event that a third party brings to the attention of the Museum information supporting the party's claim to a work, the Museum shall respond promptly and responsibly and take whatever steps are necessary to address this claim, including, if warranted, returning the work.

About Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible is an innovative, global, educational institution whose purpose is to invite all people to engage with the Bible. On Nov. 17, 2017, Museum of the Bible, which aims to be the most technologically advanced museum in the world, will open its 430,000-square-foot nonprofit museum just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. A digital fly-through of the Museum is viewable here. A 360-degree hardhat tour of the museum is available here.

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