collection ownership in doubt

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Tue Oct 1 17:53:18 CDT 2002

Alice Hempel solicited opinions, and - having a lawyer in the family
- this one is practically a no-brainer.

>The collection is moved and now there is controversy within the institution
>as to who all should have been involved in the transfer of the collection
>and where decision making power should have rested in a case like this?

The lawyers would say it most likely doesn't matter since (a) it's
already been moved, and (b) unless you skipped a detail somewhere
regarding formal deposition, the institution probably can't prove
unambiguous ownership, meaning they have no solid legal claim to ask
for it back, or (c) even if they have a viable claim, it might be
very expensive to pursue it in the courts, and most museums can't
afford that sort of nonsense. The best the institution could
*possibly* hope for is some compensation (given freely out of a sense
of retroactive fair play, since insisting upon it would require
lawsuits) from either the professor or from the receiving
institution. After all, any reasonable person would admit that both
the retired professor AND the original institution had invested
resources in the creation and maintenance of the collection (and
space IS a resource - one the institution invested over the entire
life of the collection - you'd be amazed at what space actually
costs). Obviously both parties should have sat down and negotiated,
rather than one side taking a unilateral action at the other's
expense. At this point, then, it's all a matter of internal politics
in the aftermath, and damage control.

>When a collection is moved how widely should the news be spread of the
>impending move and what importance should geographical issues play in
>deciding which might be the best accepting institution?

That should be left up to whomever has legal ownsership of the
collection. If they want "bids", then they should announce it openly,
but if not, that's their business, and they can do what they want,
whether the rest of us like it or not. If an art museum were to buy
the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, they'd have every *legal* right to
burn it, should they feel so inclined, no matter how appalled and
outraged the rest of mankind would be.

Sometimes what's legal isn't what's *right*.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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