Provenance of Museum Objects

Authored by: Layna White

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:

10.1081/E-ELIS4-120053452

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Abstract

Museum professionals, museum supporters, and observers understand provenance to be the history and circumstances of an object’s ownership and possession. Knowing the story of an object’s ownership and possession may contribute to understanding the relative meanings and significances of that object to individuals, nations, groups, and locations and may improve understandings of legal rights, titles, and interests in objects. Museum professionals understand that ascertaining and sharing provenance information can further public trust and public service and build historical records for objects. However, the ability of museums of any type to ascertain provenance for objects is greatly dependent on the motivations and practices of past owners or possessors, and other interested parties, to document and share knowledge about ownership and possession. Discussions and actions within the last several years related to the history and practices surrounding twentieth- and twenty-first-century acquisitions of certain objects by museums have focused acute attention on the importance of studying, documenting, and revealing provenance.

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