<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

The linkage between an institution's mission and the value of its cultural assets offers another perspective on the deaccession debate. Up to this point, this inquiry into the value of cultural assets has asserted that the financial value of a cultural asset is generally negative. The reasons are that cultural assets consume resources and cannot be sold. Introducing the possibility of deaccessioning changes these assumptions by making the asset fungible. The total value of that asset now has two components: one continues to be cultural, determined by the broad importance of the asset to society, but the other now becomes financial, deter­mined by the estimated market price of the asset. Unfortunately, once the asset has a financial value attached to it, its cultural value can be obscured. It is very difficult for most people to value what cannot be measured. It is this disregard for the cultural value of a nonprofit asset that critics of deaccessioning properly decry.

Even in cases where it is accepted that deaccessioning of collections is war­ranted, a second controversy revolves around the proper use of the financial proceeds from those sales. For the simplicity of this discussion, consider the ques­tion of selling paintings from a museum.

The generally accepted practice among museum professionals is that proceeds from deaccessioning should be used only for new acquisitions. In fact, for some museum professionals, it seems that almost any deaccession decision is justified if proceeds are used to purchase more art. Although this logic is both understand­able and appealing, it raises an important question: if it is acceptable to trade one painting for another, why is it unacceptable to trade one capital good, a paint­ing, for another capital good? It is clearly irresponsible to sell a painting and then use the proceeds for operations; that would be liquidating capital. But what if the value—cultural, financial, or a combination of the two—that resides in a piece of art is transferred to another capital item like endowment, the principal of which must be held in perpetuity? If investment proceeds from that endow­ment were used to fund an important curatorial position, would that be a misuse of funds? Which use of the capital goes further toward allowing the institution to fulfill its basic mission? Presumably the mission of an art museum is more than just amassing paintings. It has to do something with them.

In the final analysis, the decision about whether an item should be deaccessioned depends on many factors. The nonprofit community would benefit greatly from a thorough and objective investigation of the complexities. As part of such an assessment, one useful framework for identifying both when deaccessioning is appropriate and what should be done with the proceeds might be to focus on the source of the cultural component of a nonprofit asset's value, that is, its relevance and importance to the mission of the nonprofit entity.


There are dangers in translating terms and concepts between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. For example, the for-profit definition of assets is misleading when applied to collections held by nonprofit institutions. Due to restrictions on the fungibility of those collections and their limited capacity to generate revenue, most of these "cultural assets" are actually long-term financial liabilities to their owners. Knowing that, when one hears that the Society owns an important and valuable collection of more than six million cultural assets, one should not be surprised that the Society faces a present and future of financial hardship.

In addition, there are also concepts that are important in the nonprofit sec­tor but have no direct counterparts in the for-profit realm. For example, the notion of the cultural value of an asset has little, if any, meaning in a profit-maximizing economic environment. It is therefore a concept that is difficult for most people to understand. That is why, when a nonprofit asset is considered for deaccessioning and is tagged with a dollar value, the emphasis on its cultural value is often lost. Retaining focus on the cultural value of collections requires a thorough understanding of the mission of the nonprofit "owner" and the relevance of the asset to it.

There is little doubt that the financial environment surrounding nonprofit institutions with large collections is becoming increasingly difficult. If nonprofit lead­ers are to be successful in guiding their institutions through the difficult times that lie ahead, they will need to have a clear understanding of the distinctive charac­teristics of "cultural assets"—and to recognize them as financial liabilities.

Questions & Answers

What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Privacy Information Security Software Version 1.1a
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, The new-york historical society: lessons from one nonprofit's long struggle for survival. OpenStax CNX. Mar 28, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10518/1.1
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'The new-york historical society: lessons from one nonprofit's long struggle for survival' conversation and receive update notifications?