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Disposal of collections

 
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:15 PM
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 841
Default Disposal of collections

It is a heart-wrenching problem to decide whether one's collection should be given to fans or donated to institutions in the hope of aiding students. There are arguments pro and con on each side.

Bert Fenn had a horror of his collection disappearing into the maw of a museum or library to never be seen again. I share that view to a large extent, having tried and failed to get what I needed from some of them at a reasonable cost. Photographs and writings that have appeared again and again in published works (thus negating any copyright affectations by an institution) are sold at high prices and absurd demands are made for credits. The institutions did not do the work of writing, photographing, printing or publishing them. Some they have bought, but most have been given to them. Their sole cost is for sorting and storing them, yet they charge high fees for finding, printing and shipment. I have been charged more than fifty dollars for one 8" x 10" print. All too frequently the persons involved in doing this clerical work haven't the faintest idea of what they are handling. On the plus side, they offer the convenience of having many items in one place. Even so, none has ALL of what a researcher needs so he is obliged to deal with several institions anyway.

Distributing collections among other researchers and fans also has its drawbacks. All too often their collections are unclassified and dumped into dusty boxes and bins scattered from basement to attic. Many are collected with no focus. Steamboatiana gathered from the dime store, can labels, and toys may be of value to researchers of dime store activities, can labels and toys may find them interesting, but to steamboat historians they are trash. Some collections are so narrow as to be useless. It is no fun looking through bushels of "Steamboat Willie" dolls hoping to find a something of value. There is pleasure in feeling that the recipient will fully enjoy his purchase or gift and that can be achieved only outside the institutions.

Should a collection be willed or sold? It is a very nice gesture to give away what one has paid for, but it is not good business. Some artifacts can have considerable worth. A locomotive number plate recently sold for thousands of dollars here in Louisville. Whistles, bells, chinaware, flatware and silver plate, paintings and drawings draw much money. Correspondence between notables ranges from worthless to kings' ransoms in monetary value.

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen is to die intestate. That is when collections fetch up in garbage cans.
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