I wanted to put this out there for anyone on SheWrites who might have experience working for a museum in any capacity (but if there is someone who has had some curatorial experience, that would be especially helpful): in the United States, what are the general procedures in acquiring an item for collection? In my WIP, I have a situation where my female lead is an assistant curator who was asked to meet with an African merchant in town with some items that might be of interest to the museum. Instead, my asst. curator buys a trunk full of various items. Has she committed an illegal/illegitimate action in regards to museum policy or is it just a faux pas. Its kind of key that I understand what is proper/legal or not because it does have an affect on my asst. curator plot-wise.
I have had a limited amount of museum experience myself - indeed the idea of the meeting with the African merchant came from a situation when I was 'interning' at a museum, doing cultural research on African mask. I came in one afternoon and was told by the curator of the anthropology dept that she had just received a phone call from a visiting African merchant with masks that I might be interested in.
When I got back from seeing what he had, the curator asked me if there was anything that the museum might be interested in purchasing. I don't know if she was actually serious or not (I certainly was never given any money to purchase anything), and it was not the perspective I had when I did look at the masks, but it did get me to wondering just exactly what the ethics/procedures were for such a thing. Ive also worked in a small town museum and got to see some of the 'backstage' work there too, but the museum did not go through a lot of acquisitions, and if they did, I was never involved.
So I am hoping I can call upon anyone in the SheWrites universe who might be able to answer my questions. Thank you!
Its one I'll have a hard time forgetting...I was only 20 years old at the time, and while I was trying to ask the merchant questions about what each mask was used for, he was trying to talk me into becoming his third wife! It was too funny...
You might see what you can find on the case of the Getty Museum and Marion True. I've read a few snippets about it, but haven't read in depth. She apparently purchased illegal antiquities. Here's one link, but there are plenty more:
It's only one case, but it could get you started.
Oh perfect, thank you! That will definitely give me some chewing material!