This publication is a translation of the Norwegian Retningslinjer for avhending, published by Arts Council Norway in 2015.
It is a fact that museums do not have an adequate overview of their collections. The report Vel bevart? Tilstandsvurdering av museumssamlingar ('Well preserved? Condition assessment of museum collections' – in Norwegian only) documented major backlogs in registration, and also that large parts of the collections are stored in premises where objects are at risk of being damaged.
This, together with the fact that museums' collection practices often do not correspond with their own collection strategies to any great extent, makes it important to consider whether all parts of the collections should be kept and under what conditions they should be stored.
This is part of the process of prioritisation in the collections; to consider what should be given optimum preservation conditions, what can be placed in less than optimum premises, and what can be disposed of.
Despite clear signals from the central government administration, no guidelines for the prioritisation and disposal of museum objects have been prepared in Norway. Bergen City Museum therefore submitted an application to the Arts Council Norway and was granted funding for a two-year project (August 2013–July 2015) on the topic of Prioritisation and disposal: guidelines and method. The project was carried out in cooperation with the Randsfjord Museums and Oslo Museum.
The proposed guidelines are intended as a practical elaboration of the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums and the SPECTRUM collections management standard. In the absence of a museum law, these guidelines can only serve as a guide to how to carry out a prioritisation process. The ethical issues in the field are primarily formulated by ICOM, but each individual museum must also carry out its own ethical assessments and discussions based on its own specific situation.
No recommendations are given for specific methods to be used in prioritisation processes. Different tools exist that can be used in such work, and each museum must consider which tools are best suited to their situation.
This document presents transfer of ownership and destruction as two of several possible outcomes in a prioritisation process. We nevertheless wish to emphasise that transfer of ownership/destruction is a tool, and only in exceptional circumstances a goal in itself.