Welcome to module 5

Introduction to MSM 211 Module 5 – Curation and Collecting – Laws and Ethical Issues by Josh Reuther and Scott Shirar.

Learning Objectives


Module 5 will introduce the practical application of laws and ethics associated with collecting for museums and curating those collections.

By the end of this module students will be able to:

  • identify three reasons why museums collect
  • describe at least one legal element required to collect museum objects or specimens
  • identify at least one ethical question associated with museum collecting in natural, cultural, or art history

lecture THEMES

Basic ethical considerations in museum collecting; ethics of museum archaeology

Josh Reuther discusses basic ethical considerations in collecting and curation in museums. (20:28)

Laws & Ethical issues in collecting & curating cultural and historical materials

Angela Linn introduces the “Guest Lecture” by Dr. Joe Watkins, in the presentation “Get Them Before They’re Gone: From Collecting Cultural Objects to Collaborating with Communities.” (1:08)

Laws & Ethical issues for curating & Collecting in art museums

Mareca Guthrie, UAMN Curator of Fine Arts (38:42)

Laws & Ethical issues in collecting & curating natural history specimens

(There is some overlap with module 4, but also see the required video content below “From Field to Lab: Small Mammal Monitoring in Denali” and “Rediscovering the Lost Coffee” as well as recommended reading)


Many of the issues surrounding the practical application of laws and ethics associated with collecting for museums and curating those collections are centered on a shared set of definitions of key terms. Learn this set of vocabulary to demonstrate an understanding of these concepts.

  1. Curation
  2. Cultural resources
  3. Acquisition
  4. Deaccession
  5. Disposal
  6. Repatriation
  7. Consultation
  8. Collection Permit
  9. Import/Export Permit
  10. Repository Agreement
  11. Antiquities Act of 1906
  12. Regulation 36 CFR 79 Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections
  13. IUCN Red List
  14. Provenance
  15. Authentication
  16. Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990

Activities / Assignments

Reading / Video content



“Get Them before They’re Gone: From Collecting Cultural Objects to Collaborating with Communities” – lecture by Dr. Joe Watkins (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland (49:04)

Guidelines for Collaboration – School for Advanced Research, Indian Arts Research Center (4:19)

From Field to Museum – Small Mammal Monitoring in Denali National Park (7:18)

Rediscovering the Lost Coffee (2:52)

Hyperallergic Podcast: Why Did the Whitney Museum Cancel a Political Art Exhibition? (24:34)


The Art Law Podcast: Art Museums in the Pandemic (58:00)



For Exploration:


Log into our course shell in Canvas and go to ‘Quizzes’ on the left side menu.

Take ‘Quiz 5’:  Vocabulary relating to laws & ethics of museum collecting.

You will have up to three attempts to match the vocabulary and definitions. Click over to Canvas to take quiz 5.

Meet Up

Time to get together! This is optional but highly encouraged. We will meet via Zoom at 12:30 pm (AKST) on Friday February 17. The link to the session can be found in this Google Document (you must be part of the class to view the document). If you are unable to join the meeting will be recorded and you will be expected to review the recording prior to writing your discussion post (see below).


Discuss: Why do museums collect?

  1. Create a new post on this website and answer this question based on your personal experience. Your post should be roughly 500 words and should include an image.   Think about the reading and video materials this week and personal experiences you have had to help illustrate your ideas. Alternately, find a recent news article to share about a museum, what are some of your thoughts relating to the article.
  2. At the end of your post, include a question for your fellow students to answer.
  3. Respond to each others’ posts (you will need to respond to/comment on at least two other posts).
  4. Select “5. Curation & Collecting” from the list of discussion categories on the right hand side of your posting window on the dashboard.

Looking Forward

Next week we’ll look at Living Collections and all the complications of collecting, managing, and supporting collections that are alive. Institutions we’ll examine include botanical gardens, living insect collections, zoos and aquaria, as well as living history and open air museums.

Did you know?

Fun tidbit not to be tested on.

Zak Bagans, the star of the television program Ghost Adventures, established The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, which was recently voted Las Vegas’ “Best Attraction.” The museum in a historic Las Vegas home holds over 30 themed-rooms that rival scenes from Hollywood horror films containing objects like Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s “Death Van,” Charles Manson’s bone fragments, The Conjuring 3 movie’s real-life, “Devil’s Rocking Chair,” Peggy the Doll and come face-to-face with the “World’s Most-Haunted Object”…the Dybbuk Box.