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Curator ? Museum selective about donations

January 20, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts' officials are thrilled to have the museum considered when art collectors are looking for a new home for artwork, but the museum doesn't accept everything.

"There is no such thing as free art for a museum, really," said WCMFA Curator Ann Prentice Wagner, because the museum must provide space, time and resources for each work of art.

The museum's permanent collection consists of approximately 7,000 works of art, with 200 to 300 works on exhibit any given day, Wagner said.

Exhibits are rotated to show off different works.

Wagner said potential donors should visit the museum to get an idea whether that particular piece is appropriate for the museum; whether it would add to the museum's collection.

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The museum's major focus is American art, particularly landscapes and portraits. The museum also has American and European glass works, late 19th and early 20th century sculptures, and American and European realistic and abstract art.

That doesn't mean museum officials wouldn't want art from other genres. Museum officials are often trying to fill in other areas to round out the collection, Wagner said.

In order to consider a work of art for donation, the piece must be brought to the museum so its condition can be evaluated, Wagner said. Some pieces need restoration or conservation work, she said, and curators conduct research on the background of all potential donations.

Curators are selective about which works of art they will accept. Museum officials want to make sure the museum's works are pieces that can be shown, that will work with exhibits and educational programs, and that the museum has the resources to properly care for and display, Wagner said.

As for acquiring art, purchases are selective, she said.

The museum has limited funds that are used carefully to purchase art that enhances the collection.

Occasionally, museums will de-accession, or remove, art from their permanent collections. A work might be sold or traded to another museum that highlights that kind of art in exchange for a piece that better fits with the first museum's collection.

Wagner said that has not happened since September 2006, the beginning of her tenure as curator.

"It's a very, very carefully considered process," she said. "We don't want people to think we would take things in simply to get rid of them."

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