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Acquisitions Policy

Collections Acquisition Policy

Policy No: NMI-POL-DEV-001 Version No: 2019-10-07-v8-FINAL
Date Approved: 21-11-2019 Approved By: Board
Number of Pages: 4 Signature:
Review Period: 5 Years Division Responsible: Collections & Learning
Implementation Date: 21-11-2019 Review Date: 21-6-2023

The National Museum of Ireland (NMI) supports an active programme of acquisition. This policy covers all acquisitions of ‘museum heritage objects’ by the NMI for its core collections. For the purposes of this Policy, ‘acquisition’ refers to the permanent transfer of ownership of an object to the National Museum of Ireland (for information relating to the temporary transfer of objects in or out of NMI, see the Loans Policy). The term ‘accession’ is used to signify that an object has been formally inducted into the core collection. This policy does not address the collections of the NMI Archives, Library or Education Handling Collections, for which there are separate policies.

Legislative Basis
The State owns the collections managed by NMI and has done since the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, 1877 established what is now known as the National Museum of Ireland. That legislation was superseded in 1997 and while the State still owns the collections, NMI now acquires objects under powers conferred by section 11 of the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997. This states that:

12. — (2) The Board shall have all such powers as it considers necessary or expedient for the performance of its functions under this Act including, but without prejudice to the foregoing, the following powers: (m) to acquire, borrow or accept a donation or bequest of museum heritage objects The term “museum heritage object” is defined in the 1997 Act as:

(a) any object in the collection of the Museum on the Museum establishment day,
(b) any object (including archaeological objects, objects relating to the decorative arts or natural sciences or to history or industry or folklife) over 25 years old considered appropriate by the Board for inclusion in the collection of the Museum concerning human life in Ireland, the natural history of Ireland, and of the relations of Ireland with other countries, and
(c) any other similar objects; The NMI has a statutory role under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2014 (and under revision 2017) in relation to archaeological objects.

1. All archaeological objects found in the State without a known owner are property of the State and the NMI is the repository for all such objects.
2. Archaeological objects must be reported to the NMI within 96 hours of discovery.
3. Designated Museums may (on behalf of the State) acquire archaeological objects that are primarily of local importance.
4. The Director NMI has the option to waive the claim of the State in relation to such objects.
5. The NMI is the State’s repository for all archaeological objects from excavations and other sources.
6. The definition of ‘archaeological object’ is very broad. It governs not only artefacts but also archaeologically significant ecofacts (remains of plants or animals), and human remains, and is not limited by the date or age of an object.

Core Collections
1. Museum Heritage Objects (including ‘Archaeological Objects’) that have been acquired by the NMI are registered in systems dating back to the implementation of the Science & Art Museum Act on 14 August 1877. All objects acquired by NMI since that date and registered in these systems are considered ‘Accessioned Objects’ that are part of the NMI ‘Core Collection’.
2. Included in the NMI Core Collection are major collections of objects transferred from the Museum of Irish Industry (MII), Royal Dublin Society (RDS), Royal Irish Academy (RIA), Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (RSAI) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD). These transfers and deposits in the 19th century into what is now the National Museum of Ireland are considered part of the NMI Core Collection. The objects in these collections are in many cases not well documented, and were not itemised or catalogued at the point of transfer of custodianship to NMI. The nature of transfer may be variable and in some cases, also poorly documented.

Selection of Objects for Acquisition
1. NMI will acquire objects and their accompanying data that support and expand upon the existing collections, as outlined for each Curatorial Division (covering the disciplines of archaeology, decorative and applied arts, ethnography, history, Irish folklife and natural history).
2. NMI will take resources into consideration when making decisions on acquisitions, in order to ensure an appropriate standard of care can be delivered. This will include space, materials and staff time required for managing the receipt, documentation and subsequent care of an object or collection of objects.
3. NMI will take due consideration of the acquisition policies and strategies of other state bodies responsible for the acquisition of portable heritage objects, to avoid duplication of effort.
4. The Curatorial Divisions of the NMI shall prepare a Acquisition Strategies for approval by the Director of NMI. These acquisition strategies shall take consideration of the NMI Statement of Strategy and be subject to periodic review.
5. The NMI will follow its Collections Acquisition Guidelines when processing acquisitions. These cover the processes to be followed in making decisions to acquire specific objects, or collections of object. These include the levels of delegation in terms of decision making, from routine acquisitions processed by curators, to major acquisitions with significant implications for NMI that are approved at the level of Director.
6. The NMI will follow appropriate professional guidelines (SPECTRUM 5.0, published September 2017) when accessioning objects, with a focus on capturing all relevant information at the point of acquisition.
6.1. Due diligence will be undertaken as part of the acquisition process. This will include appropriate scrutiny of any factor that may be raised as a challenge to the rightful transfer of ownership of any object or collection of objects (including, but not restricted to; proof of ownership, permits, legislation, ethics, copyright, usage agreements, health and safety, and legal title as appropriate to the nature of the object).
6.2. Upon entry to an NMI building an entry number will be allocated to all objects or groups of objects, and added to the collections management database to ensure an audit trail exists.
6.3. Each object or group of objects must be registered into the appropriate collection using a unique NMI register number, which should be securely associated with the objects.
6.4. A museum record will be prepared for all new acquisitions and associated with the register number no later than three months after acquisition.
6.5. The systems used to manage records will be tamper-proof, with an appropriate audit trail and secure backup.
7. The Director of the NMI, acting on behalf of the Board, reserves the right to reject the offer of any museum heritage object, or any object less than twenty-five years old, but as standard practice the NMI will:
7.1. Not accept objects under circumstances that would be damaging to the Museum’s standing and reputation.
7.2. Not accept objects that are known, or suspected to have been illegally or unethically acquired by the current holder, unless these are Irish archaeological objects where the museum has a duty to receive them.
7.3. Not accept any object where it has good cause to believe that the current holder is not legitimately entitled to retain the object, unless these are archaeological objects where the museum has a duty to receive them.
7.4. Not accept objects that do not meet the criteria set out above.
7.5. Consider for acquisition objects of any age as part of NMI’s Contemporary Collections Acquisition Strategy.

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