Online Museum Course: Found in the Collection: Orphans, Old Loans and Abandoned Property

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Every museum has a few stray items. Some lost tags long ago. Others turn up as surprises during inventories. A few are all that remain from long-ago exhibits. While you'll want to keep some, others may be deteriorating. Even worse, some pose significant hazards for staff and the rest of the collection. All raise legal and professional questions. How do you deal with objects that have no records? Or loans from unidentified or deceased lenders? Found in the Collection addresses how to identify abandoned objects and old loans. It further covers the application of state laws and rules for identifying owners or establishing ownership.

  • Suggested Prerequisites (or equivalent experience):   None
  • Prerequisites are designed to facilitate students' comprehension of the material. If you have not taken a prerequisite course then you should have equivalent knowledge from another source. Otherwise you may have trouble comprehending all of the course material.

Course Outline:
1. Introduction
2. Definitions and legislation
3. Identification and process - Abandoned property and “Found in the Collection”
4. Identification and process - Old Loans
5. Systems to regulate future problems
6. Conclusion

Required Textbook
The New Museum Registration Methods, 4th edition. Edited by Rebecca A. Buck & Jean Allman Gilmore. 427 pages (American Association of Museums; 1998) ISBN: 0-931201-31-4. Available through American Association of Museums. $55.00 (non-member cost) $40.00 (member cost)

Participants in Found in the Collection work through sections on their own. Instructor Lin Nelson-Mayson is available for scheduled email support. Materials and resources include online literature, slide lectures and dialog between students and online chats led by the instructor. The course is limited to 20 participants.

Found in the Collection runs four weeks. To reserve a spot in the course, please pay at If you have trouble please contact Helen Alten at

The Instructor:
Lin Nelson-Mayson, with over 25 years of museum experience at small and large institutions, is director of the University of Minnesota's Goldstein Museum of Design. Prior to that, she was the director of ExhibitsUSA, a nonprofit exhibition touring organization that annually tours over 30 art and humanities exhibitions across the country. For five years, she was a coordinator or judge for the American Association of Museums' Excellence in Exhibitions Competition. She currently serves on the exhibition committee for the National Sculpture Society. Ms. Nelson-Mayson has extensive experience with the planning, preparation, research and installation of exhibitions. Ms Nelson-Mayson's experience includes teaching museum studies and museology courses. Her particular interest is the needs of small museums.

Her credentials include the following:

An MFA from The Ohio State University in sculpture and critical writing
A BFA from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in painting.
Work as a curator for the Ross County Historic Society (Chillicothe, Ohio), the Art Museum of South Texas (Corpus Christi), the Columbia Museum of Art (South Carolina), and the Minnesota Museum of American Art.