Your collection's fate?

Kaiserdigs

New member
Museums scare the crap out of me. I had a family friend who was Airborne in WWII, I got a few pieces from him, but he donated a lot of it to a local museum. it has been over 30 years and none of it has ever seen the light of day. A few years ago a friend of mine got on the board of the museum and I asked him if I could come look at the military stuff they had. I got in and found tons of stuff, all packed up in the attic of the museum, most was ruined or close to it, from years of heat and cold. He told me they got more military stuff then they could ever display, and it was not a focus of the museum. I told him they should sell the stuff to fund what they wanted, and was told no they never sell anything. So in a few more years they may not have any of it left to salvage IMO. I found numerous Spiked helmets with covers that I remember seeing in the museum as a kid, great condition then, now helmets are all cracking from heat, and covers are all moth eaten.

I got some years before I need to part with the collection, but it will for sure not go to a museum.

Best

James
Out of curiosity what museum? Because that is pretty bad. A lot of museums take great care of their stuff.
 

poniatowski

Active member
Out of curiosity what museum? Because that is pretty bad. A lot of museums take great care of their stuff.
Most of a museum's collection is never displayed, or displayed infrequently. However, what you describe is outrageous and shameful. A museum that won't de-access and sell off items that might become damaged or aren't part of their scope, are nothing more than scrap yards.

Ron
 
My youngest son, who is 50 now, is very interested in my collection and my will makes sure that he gets it. However, I have known of collectors who made arrangements with a trusted collector friend who was willing to dispose of the collection, piece by piece. The surviving spouse knows of the arrangement and will take advantage of it, while still maintaining control as desired. It isn't unusual to set up a reasonable commission because effective selling a large collection is a lot of work. That system works.
 

seagull

Member
This thread goes back quite awhile and I have re-read it all over again to get a sense of what people here now feel about the subject. My conclusion is coloured by 15 years of service in a National Museum where I saw things being donated and also things being actively solicited by management and Staff who were eager to have some special things in the collections. There is a vast difference between these two scenarios and how the two categories of objects are subsequently treated. When museums make concerted attempts to acquire things (donated OR purchased) it is usually because the objects are of National or ever International importance, culturally or artistically: naturally, these things are actively sought by individual Curators or higher management who recognise how posession of these things by their institution will add kudos, bring in visitors and maybe even increase revenue: the fate of these objects is assured. They will be cherished and cared for (properly or otherwise depends on the knowledge and skill of the Conservators) and they WILL, eventually and for a time, be exhibited - at least for as long as they stay fashionable, current and, sadly, politically correct. Their "desirability factor" will remain intact for at least as long as that acquiring Curator or Management team remain in post.
After that,.... well, let us hope that we are thinking in terms of decades here, at least. But that situation will, with sufficient passage of time, change for the worse. It happens and we just have to get over it. None of us is here forever and, with the possible exception of the Mona Lisa and such like, the same applies to other, less significant objects.
When people walk in and offer to donate an object the scenario is dramatically different. Most things people bring in are certainly important to them, and often resonate with them on a highly personal level (Great Grandfather's bringback Haube?) but, essentially, it is never going to be viewed by most large museums as anything but a damn nuisance: does that offend you? Let me explain.

1. Most objects offered to museums, leaving aside personal attachments, are perceived as relatively unimportant things by the receiving Officer of the day (it is always a duty rotated on a roster) who is unfamiliar with them and hasn't the time to research anything on the spot. 99% of the time they are right: the object is politely and gently rejected, BUT if it is accepted,....................
2. Accepting any object requires bureaucratic/ legal paperwork/computer work. These days quite a lot of it, and no-one is overly happy about that - there is always more than enough work already in hand (BELIEVE ME).
3. The institution has four hundred thousand / a million / two million objects already in overflowing stores, and they have the capacity to only ever display about four/five thousand of whatever is currently 'in fashion'. Everything else sits on shelves for half a lifetime, waiting to be discovered all over again by some eager young incoming Assistant Curator who has been told to go and familiarise themselves with the collections. (Even if they find something absolutely wonderful that is no guarantee that it will be brought back to prominence simply because of his/her enthusiasm.)
4. The offer of a complete and extensive collection of almost anything would be cause for something approaching panic since that would require the involvement of management and decisions at a higher level. Obviously a collection of Canova marble statues would not be dismissed out of hand but the convoluted bureaucratic/legal shenanigans arising from such an offer would be wonderful to behold!
5. The Elephant in the room: political correctness.
Like it or not, an ever-increasing number of things are now regarded as 'unacceptable', depending on where in the World you are, and anything at all that is redolent of Warfare is now seen askance by entire generations who reserve the right to utterly reject the very existence of what they seemingly cannot understand.
As I write this the Moisin rifle used to great effect by Vasily Zaitsev is on display where it has been for many years in the Battle of Stalingrad Museum.
I sincerely doubt that rifle will be removed for reasons of 'political correctness' any time soon, but I know of no other comparable display anywhere in my own country. In my own area, a statue of a General who died in a colonial War that most people have forgotten has been threatened with removal by various people/groups for the last twenty years, and I am willing to bet that most of them could not tell you just where that War was fought, or indeed why.
For all of these reasons, individually or in combination, there are few museums across the World who can willingly and happily house and continually exhibit the things we of this forum collect. It's sad, but also true.

In my life I have had the great good fortune to have seen innumerable wonderful and beautiful things that the World cannot now reproduce. My wife and I have several collections of different things which we live amongst and continue to appreciate. I do not denigrate Museums nor the people who staff them, they mostly do good work and are generally underpaid for doing it, but I do not hesitate to tell you that nothing at all of our collections will ever be consigned to any museum when it is our time to exit. The plan is already in place.
Everything will be sold to collectors who will want them, care about them and keep them - hopefully for another lifetime. after that, who knows, but I will have done my part.
Steve.
 

b.loree

Administrator
Staff member
Thank you Steve for taking the time to explain to us the realities of how museum collections are managed. I would imagine that donating a collection to a small local museum would be even worse. As I said, mine will be sold on the open market to my fellow collectors.
 

J.LeBrasseur

Active member
Thank you Steve for taking the time to explain to us the realities of how museum collections are managed. I would imagine that donating a collection to a small local museum would be even worse. As I said, mine will be sold on the open market to my fellow collectors.

Brian- I thought I got your collection? I need to talk to Caron:)

James
 

b.loree

Administrator
Staff member
James, I have already cut a deal with Lori regarding your collection, so I guess we are in a tontine sort of situation now......who croaks first! 😎
 

seagull

Member
Sorry everyone, but I could not describe the reality of the "museum condition" in a smaller post without coming off as flippant. Placing our treasured objects with others of a similar mind really is the only way to go.
Steve.
 

b.loree

Administrator
Staff member
No problem Steve, I for one really appreciated your in depth, detailed post. I now understand completely why our type of collection would not be displayed or wanted by most museums. Our collections are so important to us that we don't realize how most of the world could care less. Some in the general public might even label us as "war mongers" for our love of these old pieces of militaria. Even in the case of the Louisville SOS, it is such a huge deal for us but in the eyes of the "venue management" we are pretty small potatoes compared to the huge crowds that some events attract. Again my thanks for all the effort you put into your post, you really cleared things up.
 
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