Deaccessioning and Disposal Policy

Section 1 – Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to set out the principles and rationale that guide the deaccessioning and disposal of material from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) collections and to ensure that such disposals are neither unwarranted nor haphazard.

The objectives of this policy are to enable TMAG to:

a) improve the collections by rationalising, consolidating and focusing the collections as outlined in the TMAG Acquisition Policy;
b) dispose of material that is not required as part of its collections, in accordance with approved procedures;
c) transfer material that may be better placed in another museum or similar public collection institution; or
d) exchange material with another museum or public collecting institution where this will result in the mutual enrichment of both collections.
These objectives are to be achieved by ensuring that TMAG:
a) applies rigorous, ethical and accountable standards in proposals to deaccession and dispose of collection material;
b) considers and approves the deaccessioning and disposal of collection material in accordance with established delegated authority;
c) collection practices and procedures are transparent and provides the basis upon which responsible deaccessioning and disposal of items may be undertaken.


TMAG recognises that the ability to deaccession and dispose of material from the collection is an essential part of an effective collection management program. This policy covers the deaccessioning and disposal of material from TMAG’s collections.
This policy does not cover the disposal of non-collection assets.

Authorities / Legal Framework

This policy is established by the Director and approved by the Board of Trustees (the Board) pursuant to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Act 2017 (the Act)

  • Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 (Cth)


This policy should be read in conjunction with:

  • TMAG Acquisition Policy
  • TMAG discipline specific acquisition policies and procedures
  • Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – March 1973
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol (2010)
  • 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property

Section 2 – Glossary / Definitions

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Act 2017.

Means the Board of Trustees of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Is the formal process by which items in the museum’s collection are removed from the collection and are made ready for disposal. Deaccessioning is part of collection management.

The action taken to remove a collection item from the museum’s ownership, control or possession once the item has been deaccessioned. This action may take the form of gift, transfer, exchange, surrender, repatriation, sale or destruction.

The full history and chain of ownership of an item from the time of its discovery or creation to the present day, through which authenticity and legal title are determined.

The historical, aesthetic, scientific or social values that a museum object or collection has for past, present and future generations.

The legal right to ownership of property. This may be supported by full evidence of every transaction subsequent to the first owner’s title.

Section 3 – Policy

Part A – Statement

Under section 17 of the Act, the Board in its discretion may deaccession and dispose of material from the TMAG collections if satisfied that:

a) the material is unfit, unsafe or unsuitable for the collection;
b) the material is no longer required as part of the collection; or
c) there are other compelling reasons for effecting the disposal.

Regardless of the intended method of disposal, if the Board suspects the market value of the material exceeds or might exceed the threshold value under section 18 of the Act, then the Board is to notify the Minister of its intention to effect the disposal and await the Minister’s decision. The Board is not to effect the disposal unless the Minister, by notice to the Board, approves the disposal.

Part B – Responsibilities

The Minister decides on proposals for the disposal of collection material valued at or over the threshold value as defined in the Minister’s Statement of Expectation.
The Minister has set the threshold value for section 17(4) of the Act at $100,000.

The Board is responsible for ensuring the deaccession and disposal of material is consistent with the provisions of Division 2 of the Act.
The Board approves proposals for the deaccessioning and disposal of material up to the threshold value as defined in the Minister’s Statement of Expectation.

The Director is responsible for recommending the deaccessioning and disposal of collection material submitted to the Board for approval.

Employees of TMAG are responsible for submitting recommendations on the deaccession and proposed disposal of collection material to the Director for the Board’s approval.

Part C - Principles

Reasons for deaccessioning material

An item can be deaccessioned from TMAG’s collection for the following reasons:

a) TMAG collection policies have been revised since the item was acquired and/or the collections focus has been refined or altered.
b) The material constitutes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains and secret/sacred material.
c) Items and human remains identified and/or required to be returned to the country of their origin.
d) Items come under the terms of the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975 and the Museums (Aboriginal Remains) Act 1984.
e) Items are of a particular genre of which TMAG possesses better examples.
f) The item is a lesser quality duplicate of an item in the collection.
g) Items are so degraded or irreparably damaged that they are no longer recognisable or restorable and no longer suitable for scholarly or other museum purposes.
h) Items are so degraded that the cost of restoration and storage is disproportionate to the significance of the item.
i) The item can no longer be suitably stored.
j) The item lacks the supporting information or documentation of its acquisition or provenance that enables its proper identification or establishes its relevance to the collection.
k) Items are incorrectly identified or attributed, or are forgeries.
l) Items are of a hazardous nature which may pose a serious WHS risk to staff and visitors.
m) Items may have been unlawfully obtained by TMAG or may be claimed legitimately by an individual or their heirs, trustees or representatives, or by an organisation or institution representing a claimant, community or nation.
n) With the exception of special study collections, art works which fall below the general level of aesthetic quality or historical significance in TMAG’s representation of an artist, period or style

Exclusions from deaccessioning

Items that will NOT be considered for deaccessioning include:

a) those subject to a trust or other legal impediment or have conditions attached expressly or by implication which prohibits deaccessioning;
b) those that may, by law, be required to be retained or otherwise dealt with in accordance with heritage, archival or other similar legislation; and
c) those acquired less than ten years prior to the time of the proposed deaccession.

Natural sciences material that will NOT be considered for deaccessioning include specimens:

a) of extinct, rare, endangered and vulnerable species;
b) of historical, cultural or provenance significance;
c) that have been cited in published scientific work;
d) that have been formally labelled or otherwise annotated, indicating they have been used for a scientific study;
e) that are from sites from which further material cannot be collected; and
f) for which label data are in the public domain, such as in the Australian Virtual Herbarium, Atlas of Living Australia, Global Biodiversity Information Facility or the Tasmanian Natural Values Atlas.

Section 4 – Procedures

4.1 Procedures for deaccessioning and disposal of TMAG collection material

Proposals for deaccessioning and disposal of collection material should be submitted to the Director for endorsement before being referred to the Board for decision.

The deaccession proposal should include the following:

  • full details of the item, including accession number (if one exists) and provenance;
  • advice on legal status of item;
  • full details of the circumstances of the item’s acquisition, including any prohibitions or restrictions on deaccessioning (including statutory restrictions) and notification requirements (including grant funding agreement terms);
  • reasons for the proposed deaccessioning;
  • recommendations for the means of disposal; and
  • estimated current market value of the item, if any.

If the proposal is approved by the Board, and the threshold value is less than or equal to $100,000, the material may be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of 4.2 and 4.3 below.

If the proposal is approved by the Board, and the value of the material is equal to or greater than $100,000 in value, permission for disposal must be sought from the Minister in accordance with sections 17 of the Act. In such cases, disposal arrangements in accordance with the provisions of 4.2 and 4.3 below may be implemented after ministerial approval has been received.

A communications plan will be developed once approval for deaccession has been received.

Notice of an ‘in principle’ deaccession shall be publicly advertised. The public notice will specify a period to enable representation to be made. Under normal circumstances a period of three months should generally elapse between the public notice and the final resolution relating to the deaccession and disposal.

The Board may include a notice of a disposal in the TMAG Annual Report as per section 17 (7) of the Act.

4.2 Disposal of deaccessioned material

A disposal may be effected by the following means the Board in its discretion thinks is most appropriate in the circumstances:

a) donation (gift)
b) transfer
c) exchange *
d) surrender
e) repatriation
f) sale *
g) destruction – applies only if the material has no market value or only negligible market value; or that for safety, legal, public policy or other compelling reasons the material should be destroyed. Material should be destroyed completely and no evidence of previous TMAG ownership apparent.

* In the case of exchange or sale other than by public auction: in the case of sale at least one independent valuation of the item, and in the case of exchange with a collector or dealer at least two independent authentications and valuations shall be obtained from a qualified external assessor, prior to the exchange or sale.
In relation to an exchange, and after certified valuations and authentication, payment of a sum of money shall be made or received in recognition of the difference in value between the items exchanged if appropriate.

Under no circumstances shall a deaccessioned item be purchased, transferred or given to any Board member or TMAG employee or any member of their immediate family.

4.3 Disposal options
Depending on the nature of the deaccessioned material and the rationale for removing it from the collection, the following provisions for disposal of material should be followed:
a) Items that were donated, and where the original donor is still contactable, may be returned to the donor. Note that where the object was gifted under the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, formerly the Tax Incentives for the Arts Scheme, it cannot be returned to the donor as the donor has received the benefit of a tax deduction for the gift. Therefore, under these circumstances, this option is not to be considered.
b) Items that have a significant cultural value, but which do not conform to the collections development should, wherever possible, be placed with the most appropriate public institution, by means of gift, transfer, exchange or sale.
c) Items that do not have a significant cultural value but do have a market value may be disposed of by public auction or tender.
d) Items whose trade and movement are governed by any applicable laws or agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), or the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, should only be disposed of in accordance with such laws or agreements.
e) Items that are degraded to the point where they are no longer recognisable or restorable, and which do not have any saleable value, may be destroyed or recycled for materials or components if all other avenues for disposal have been exhausted.
f) Items that cannot be disposed of in any other way, and which do not have any saleable value, may be destroyed.
g) Disposal of hazardous or unsafe material must only be undertaken after liaison with relevant government departments and in accordance with legislative requirements for handling of dangerous goods.

4.4 Documentation and updating records

On completion of the deaccessioning and disposal process:

a) The Board’s endorsement is recorded in the Board’s minutes of meetings.
b) TMAG’s registers and files shall be amended to note the deaccessioning and disposal of the item, and copies of photographic and written records pertaining to the item shall be retained and placed in TMAG’s collection and/or records management systems.
c) The items accession number shall not be reassigned.
d) If the item goes to another organisation, details of where it was sent will be recorded and a receipt placed on file.

4.5 Proceeds from disposal

Any proceeds resulting from sale or exchange of a deaccessioned item will be used for the development of TMAG’s collections.