Don't Raid the Cookie Jar: Creating Early Interventions to Prevent Deaccessioning Crises 

A working meeting organized by the American Alliance of Museums
Hosted by the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

December 14-15, 2017

Geological Lecture Hall
24 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 
United States

In partnership with:

  • Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD)
  • American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)
  • Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG)
  • New England Museum Association (NEMA)

Registration fees:

Early Bird: $150 through November 13, 2017

Regular rate: $180 November 14 through December 1, 2017

Registration is limited. (Registration includes lunch and coffee breaks each day.)

Registration for this event has closed

In 1992 Stephen Weil wrote an essay exhorting museums not to use the "deaccession cookie jar" as the functional equivalent of a cash reserve. He laid out the consequences of selling collections to pay operating expenses, including the corrosive effect of such practices on the public trust. Field-wide standards codify Weil's position, and the field has created a framework to support nuanced, ethical decisions regarding the use of funds from deaccessioning. 

Despite this consensus, instances repeatedly arise of museums selling collections as a way to address financial needs. At this convening, you will work alongside thought-leaders, from inside and outside of the museum field, to frame out a practical toolkit that would help institutions avoid such situations. How can our field create an "early warning system" to detect potential crises that might lead to inappropriate sales? What resources can we provide to help museums find other options to address their financial needs? 

Roll up your sleeves and join us as we create practical interventions via a combination of thought leadership talks, working sessions, and a plenary discussion of next steps. 

What this convening will entail:

  • Connect with your peers from the field in small group work
  • Weigh lots of options, with pro's and con's for each
  • Help move the state of our field forward on a timely issue of broad relevance

What this convening will not entail:

We will not revisit the ethical or legal strictures regarding the use of funds from the sale of deaccessioned collections 

Outcomes we will produce from the meeting:

  • Framework for an "early detection" system
  • List of existing resources for support and intervention
  • Ideas for additional resources to be created

Who Should Attend:

The event is open to all museum professionals and any others with an interest in the topic area.

If you have any questions about registering or need assistance accessing your account please contact or call (866) 226-2150.

Schedule at a Glance:

Thursday, December 14

9:00 – 9:30 am                   Registration and coffee

9:30 – 4:45 am                   Day 1: setting the stage and first working groups

5 – 6:30 pm                        Reception at the HMSC

Dinner in groups on your own

Friday, December 15

9:00 – 9:30 am                   Registration and networking

9:30 am – 3:30 pm            Day 2 discussion and second working groups


There is no reserved room block for this meeting. Harvard Museums of Science & Culture recommend the following hotels as the reliable options nearby: 
Sheraton Commander
Harvard Square Hotel 
Charles Hotel

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellation requests for this event must be received in writing no later than December 1, 2017 to receive a full refund of your registration fees. Refund requests will not be accepted after that date. The Alliance reserves the right to cancel any program at any time, for any reason. In the event of a program cancellation by the Alliance, attendees will receive a full refund of their registration fees. For face-to-face programs, the Alliance is not responsible for any travel or hotel expenses incurred as a result of your participation or cancellation of an event.