Galt Museum deaccessioning part of military collection
By Lethbridge Herald on July 21, 2021.
The Galt Museum and Archives will be deaccessioning some of its military collection which has no direct links to Lethbridge or southwestern Alberta.
The deaccessioning, which is the formal process through which a museum divests items from its permanent collection which have accumulated over many decades, is being done according to best practices laid out by the Canadian Museum Association and Alberta Museum Association, confirms the Galt’s CEO and executive director Darrin Martens.
“We are about telling human history, and it’s the history of the community,” he says. “We have a number of objects that have little or no relationship to anyone who lived in southwestern Alberta, and that there is no real physical connection or even spiritual connection to this place.
“It is important your readers know when we deaccession something, we don’t throw them out; ever. Because we are a professional organization with professional staff, we purposefully look for places that could potentially go into their collection to help them tell a better story.”
Martens says the military collection makes up a large volume of the museum’s stored items, and has been audited twice for relevancy, once in 2012 and once in 2014, to find out what objects are truly related to the story of Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta and those which aren’t. The items chosen by collections staff for deaccessioning, he explains, were heavily researched before being recommended to the Galt’s own citizen-led acquisitions committee and board of directors before getting final approval.
These audits and the cost of putting in the time to do thorough research on the deaccessioned items were paid for through grants from the Alberta Museums Association.
Martens points to a series of rare uniform pieces which once belonged to a U.S. general from Missoula, Montana, which somehow ended up in the Galt Museum’s collection in the 1960s, as an example. These uniform pieces, while historically significant for Missoula residents, do not have any relation to the human history story of Lethbridge or southwestern Alberta. So they will be sent to the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History in Missoula to be added to its collection.
So far about 30 per cent of the objects deaccessioned at the Galt Museum have been transferred to other museums and public collections. The other 70 per cent, which have no specific context attached to them or interest from other museums, will likely be sold at auction, confirms Martens.
“We never deaccession anything for financial gain,” he says. “We always look for a home first, and if a home cannot be found and do go out to auction, all of those funds come back into the museum and are used for accessioning and purchasing new work, perhaps in other areas, to tell a better story.”
Martens says the military objects are also not being deaccessioned due to some kind of political idealism, and the museum will continue to collect military history objects which have important ties to Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta going forward.
“It is fair to say this is not an anti-war, anti-military gesture in any way,” he states. “Over the past number of years we have done a series of collection audits, and throughout those audits one of the things that came to the surface is we have a number of these military-related items that have no related story to southern Alberta. That’s why at this time we have chosen to find better homes for them.”
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