Wildcat Statue

DeVos Art Museum Acquisitions Policy

DeVos Art Museum Acquisitions Policy

The DeVos Art Museum (the Museum) at Northern Michigan University (NMU) Collection Management Guidelines establish the procedures for acquisition, deaccession, loan, care, and use of the collections of the Museum. The guidelines of the Museum shall exist within those of NMU, State or Federal law, and statutes of regulation under which the Museum is legally or ethically bound to operate.

Purpose of the Collection Management Procedures and Guidelines:

NMU is vested with the ultimate responsibility for the safety and maintenance of the museum‐quality collections that it owns. The Museum collection is part of the collections at NMU. It is the policy of NMU to charge the staff of the Museum, under authority of the Associate Dean/Director of the School of Art and Design and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, with the primary functions of collecting, researching, interpreting, exhibiting, preserving, maintaining, and caring for NMU’s fine art and related historical collections, according to the highest museum standards and ethics possible.

NMU maintains other collections, including the Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archive, the Provost Collection of Student Art, the Special Collections of Olson Library and the Upper Peninsula Beaumier Heritage Center. These areas maintain their own policies and collections records, separate from the DeVos Art Museum. However, the DeVos Art Museum will, to the extent possible, advise, assist, and collaborate with faculty and staff responsible for the other NMU collections, but the DeVos Art Museum’s primary responsibility is for fine art and related historical items.


Acquisition refers to the act of gaining possession of an object by transferring ownership of the object to the museum. Accession is the term that defines the process by which an object is legally added to the Museum’s permanent collection. The Museum seeks to add significant works to the permanent collection from the areas outlined above as well as significant works from other periods and cultures.

A. Criteria for Acquisitions

Accessioned objects, whether purchased or donated, require Museum resources to properly care for the object in perpetuity. This includes storage, maintenance, cataloguing, and exhibition. When an object is proposed for acquisition, the following criteria will be considered:

• The relevance of the object to the mission of the Museum and NMU.

• The historical and aesthetic qualities of the object, including the historical significance related to the artist’s career, historical movement and/or relationship to NMU and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

• The object’s potential for research and exhibition.

• The level of consistency with, or enhancement of, the Museum’s established collection areas.

• The physical condition of the object and the resources required to allow for proper storage, security, preservation as well as installation for exhibition.

• The presence of hazardous materials, inherently unstable materials, or potential safety threat to those handling the object or the general public.

• The provenance of the object and the ability of the donor, or other source, to prove clear title to the work, and the willingness of the donor to accept full responsibility for provenance of the object.

• The potential issues or violations the object may have related to international laws (UNESCO, NAGPRA, Nazi‐Era).

• Proof that the object is unencumbered by copyright, patent, trademark or other restrictions. 

•  Ability to provide museum staff with an up-to-date professional appraisal.

B. DeVos Art Museum Permanent Collection Committee

The DeVos Art Museum Permanent Collection Committee is an advisory body that is os Art Museum Permanent Collection Committee consists of the Director of the DeVos Art Museum (Chair), at least three (3) representatives from the DeVos Art Museum Advisory Committee, the Associate Dean/Director of the School of Art and Design (or a representative), and a faculty member from the School of Art and Design. Additional advice may also be sought from faculty and staff of NMU, knowledgeable experts in the field or from concerned members of the NMU community.

C. Accession Procedures

Objects may be added to the Museum’s collection by means of gifts, bequests, purchases, exchanges, transfer or any other transaction by which title to the object passes to the institution. The Museum acquires and accessions objects; acquisition is the act of gaining legal title to an object or group of objects. Accessioning is the formal process used to add objects to the permanent collection, including recording and documenting the object(s).

1. Permanent Collection Gifts and Bequests
A prospective donor may approach the Museum Director or NMU Foundation about his/her desire to donate an object or objects. The Museum Director will gather information from the donor about the provenance, condition, exhibition history, restoration/conservation history and publication record of the object(s). This may include visiting the donor to see the proposed object(s).

Valuation of gifts and bequests remain the donor’s responsibility, including the arrangements for and cost of such appraisals for tax and other purposes. Neither NMU nor its staff shall appraise or otherwise value objects for donors or prospective donors. The donor’s valuation of the gift is, however, part of its provenance and shall be recorded by NMU.

Museum staff (Director and/or Outreach Curator) will meet with the DeVos Art Museum Permanent Collection Committee and make a recommendation. Once a decision is reached the donor will be notified within 60 days of the decision.

If the committee moves to accept the gift, the Museum’s Development Officer from the NMU Foundation and the Director of Facilities will be notified of the intent to accept. A Property Donation Form will be drafted and signed by the donor the within 60 days of the decision. The Museum Director will send the Property Donation Form through the proper channels to be countersigned (Associate Dean/Director of the School of Art, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Safety Director, Vice President, Board of Trustees). The Museum Director will then make arrangements for transport of the object to the Museum; the donor will pay for shipping costs. Once received, the Museum Director will assign the object an accession number, affix the number to the object and create a database record of the object as well as a paper‐based object file to contain information related to the object.

In the case of bequests received in memoriam, the Museum Director, with the executor of the estate, will follow the same procedure as outlined above.

2. Purchases
In the event of a purchase initiated by the Museum Director and/or the Collections and Outreach Curator, the same procedure outlined above for gifts and bequests will be followed. The DeVos Art Museum Permanent Collection Committee must grant approval before the purchase can be made. If the purchase is approved, the Museum Director/Collections and Outreach Curator will acquire an invoice from the seller, and the bookkeeper will submit it to Accounts Payable for payment. Once the invoice is paid, the same procedures for accessioning gifts will be followed. For campus-wide art purchases not initiated by the Museum Director/Collections and Outreach Curator, see Appendix II. 

3. Transfers
In the case of offers of transfers of objects from another NMU department or other museum/cultural institution, the procedure for accessioning gifts will be followed. The credit line for the object will read “Transfer from...” rather than “Gift of...”.

4. Study Collection
The Museum established a hands‐on Study Collection in 2010. Works are selected for the Study Collection only if they can be of specific use in educational activities (including the Museum’s docent program or NMU’s Art Education program). Works may be acquired specifically for the Study Collection, but they are not accessioned, nor are they part of the Museum’s permanent collection. Works may be transferred from the Museum’s permanent collection to the Study Collection, however, at the time of such a transfer, the work is formally deaccessioned following the Museum’s deaccession procedure (outlined below).

The Study Collection allows the Museum to offer materials used in educational programming that can be handled by visitors with certain restrictions, determined by the Museum Director. Objects in the Study Collection will be made up of materials that are inappropriate for the permanent collection, typically because they are not considered to be authentic but which still embody the aesthetic of genuine items (i.e. a reproduction manufactured for popular consumption) or materials that are authentic but not sufficiently high quality for the permanent collection. The Study Collection is considered expendable and may eventually be damaged or rendered unusable through use. The standard of care is the same for any other educational materials, but items will not be insured under the Museum’s fine arts insurance policy.

5. Asset Collection
The Asset Collection is comprised of unrestricted gifts for the benefit of the collection. These are defined as works that are acquired, but not accessioned into the permanent collection, with the intent of being sold or exchanged. Net revenue from the sale of such gifts will be placed in a restricted account for collection care and acquisitions. The standard of care for these works is the same as those of the permanent collection while the objects are in the Museum’s care.

Date Approved:1-4-2000
Last Revision:7-27-2023
Last Reviewed:7-27-2023
Approved By:President
Oversight Unit:ART & DESIGN, SCHOOL OF
Attached form file: DAMCollectionUpdate7_27_23.pdf