Tuesday, February 3, 2009


If you are considering giving a gift to a museum, historical society, school, or some other tax exempt organization, be sure to obtain a written agreement. You can give your donation with the legally binding requirement that if it's sold, the money will be used for more art or collectibles, not for buildings or salaries or other types of collections. If the museum or school won't take it under those conditions, you can require that the donation be returned to you when the organization no longer wants it. If the museum or school balks at that request, give your donation to someone else. Years ago a serious collector and author of information on wooden wares gave her entire, valuable collection to a local museum to be displayed and studied--only to live long enough (over 90) to see the museum sell all of it. And the museum even ignored her wishes and used the money it made selling her collection to pay for other projects.


Anonymous said...

Good Luck! I donated my mom's christening set, first communion dress & my first communion dress. Among the papers I had to sign was one relinquishing all rights to the property. Essentially what their documents say is once you give it to us, we can do anything we choose with it. Most museums seem to have this or a variation like this. As for me... all of a sudden the neices & nephews are going the new baby route (in their 40's!!!!!!!!!) again. I had given up & gave the stuff away. Sigh.

Dawnjewels said...

Many collectors don't realize the problem that museums have accepting collections. Pieces in a collection may be duplicated elsewhere in the museum, not be relevant to the museum's mission or there is a lack of storage space.

Furthermore, some collectors attempt to place stipulations on collections that cannot reasonably be met by the museum. These can include keeping the collection intact or demanding they be kept on display at all times.

As a result, museums often decline entire collections, preferring instead to receive individual pieces to enhance their current collection or receive collections without stipulations.

If you really want your collection to go to a museum, you must take into account the museum's needs and be very flexible. Handle it yourself and don't assume that your heirs will be able to follow your wishes unless arrangements were made in advance. Museums are not obligated to take bequests.

Of course, if you give the museum enough money to build a wing to house and maintain your collection in perpetuity, you shouldn't have any problem at all!

Anonymous said...

Is it legal for the trustees to have total control?

Anonymous said...

Donors should be aware that the return of a donated item or items to the donor will have tax consequences if they took a tax deduction when they made the donation. Such a return is almost never done, due to the consequences.
Also, a donor may ask for restrictions on the use and/or disposition of their gifts, but a museum may also refuse the gift if it feels that they are too restricting.

Anonymous said...

Many people feel that if a museum deaccessions an item it should be returned to the donor but there are legal problems with this. Once an item is donated it belongs to the recipient and the donor has no right to it. The museum cannot give things away, even to the original donor. If the donor has died returning the item becomes even stickier because only the executor of the estate could determine who should receive the donated item.

Anonymous said...

I am a curator at a museum. We are taught that once an item is deaccessioned it can be sold or donated to another museum. If sold the money can ONLY be used to maintain or add to the collection.