Collections Policy


Policy Statement

Washington and Lee University is vested with ultimate responsibility for the safety and maintenance of the museum-quality collections that it owns. It is the policy of the University to charge the staff of the University Collections of Art and History (UCAH), under the authority of the Vice President for University Advancement, with the primary functions of collecting, researching, interpreting, exhibiting, preserving, maintaining, and caring for the University's fine art, decorative art, and significant historical artifact collections, according to the highest museum standards and ethics that finances allow.

The University maintains other collections, including those in Special Collections of the Leyburn Library, the Law School Library, and the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. These areas maintain their own policies and collections records, separate from UCAH. However, for pieces of art and for significant historical artifacts, UCAH will provide additional cataloging and oversight. Staff responsible for the UCAH will, to the extent possible, advise, assist, and collaborate with faculty/staff responsible for those other components of the University Collections, but UCAH's primary responsibility will be for the fine art and historical items.


This Collections Policy is a written statement of the goals of UCAH with explanations of how these goals are pursued through collections activities. It guides the staff in carrying out their responsibilities. This Policy applies to managing and caring for the University's fine art, decorative art, and significant historical artifact collections.


A collection object is an item that has been or is in the process of being accessioned into the collections.

Acquisition is the discovery, preliminary evaluation, negotiation for, receiving permission to copy (in the case of documentary materials) and taking custody of material(s) for addition to the collections.

Accessioning is the formal process used to accept and record an item as a collection object.

Collection records preserve data on collection objects and fall into two categories: registration records, which document the legal status of an object within UCAH or on loan from UCAH, and that object's movement and care while under control of UCAH; and curatorial records, which provide a broad body of information about an object which establishes the object's proper place and importance within its cultural or scientific sphere.

Conservation is the treatment and/or stabilization of collection items by qualified conservators, identified by the curators.

Deaccessioning is the formal process used to remove permanently an object from the collections.

Loans are temporary assignments of collections objects from UCAH or temporary assignments of similar objects to UCAH for stated museum purposes, such as exhibition and research. These assignments do not involve change in ownership.

Objects placed in the custody of the museum (temporary deposits) are items that are not owned by the museum but are left temporarily with UCAH for other than loan purposes, such as for attribution, identification or examinations for possible gift or purchase.

Provenance is the documentation of an object's background and history of ownership.



The University Collections of Art and History (UCAH) at Washington and Lee University advances learning through direct engagement with collections, stimulates appreciation of global cultures, and inspires leadership in the arts and sciences.

UCAH's components include the University Chapel and Museum and the Reeves Center, which support this over-arching mission, but serve distinctive purposes:

The University Chapel and Museum promotes the values of learning, honor, and character by interpreting the University's history and the contributions of its namesakes, George Washington and Robert E. Lee, to education and the nation.

The Reeves Center advances understanding and appreciation of human history through the study of ceramic production, decoration, use and trade.

UCAH collects, preserves, exhibits and makes available for study its collections of fine arts, decorative arts, and history that support the instructional programs, research activities, educational mission, and related purposes of the institution, as well as enriches the cultural life and aesthetics of the campus and surrounding community. [For an extended description of the Mission Statement, see file with UCAH and with the Provost's Office.]


  1. The Director of UCAH reports directly to the Vice President for University Advancement and is responsible for the overall operations, including overview of the management and preservation of the collections, exhibitions, educational programs, and development. In keeping with the stated mission and goals of UCAH, the director, with advice from the curators, has the authority to make recommendations regarding accessions and deaccessions, to enter into loan agreements, and to make contracts with or without competitive bidding for restoration or conservation of collections. The director is an ex-officio member of the Collections Committee.
  2. A Collections Committee shall be appointed by the Provost's Office and consist of Art Department faculty and other appropriate members designated by the Provost, which may include a designee of the Dean of the College, designee of the Vice President for University Advancement, designee of General Counsel, representatives from both the law and the undergraduate libraries, as well as faculty in archaeology, history, chemistry, and other relevant disciplines. In addition, the Director of UCAH, the Associate Director/Curator of UCAH, the Curator of Ceramics/Manager of the Reeves Collections, and the Collections Coordinator shall be ex-officio, non-voting members of the committee.
    • The Committee shall be responsible for oversight of policy matters and shall approve by majority vote all accessions, deaccessions, and loans as outlined in the policy sections below. The Director of UCAH shall regularly inform the Vice President for University Advancement on the Committee's decisions.
    • Authority to accept objects for the collections is delegated by the Vice President for University Advancement to the Collections Committee except in regards to the following: acquisitions of unusual size, extent, value, or cost of maintenance, that have specific restrictions, or that otherwise entail special circumstances that may be inconsistent with this Policy. In such cases, the Vice President for University Advancement and, if required, the Board of Trustees, shall have ultimate, final decision-making authority, in consultation with the Director and Collections Committee.
    • The Collections Committee shall also advise on educational programming related to the collections, as well as advocate on behalf of UCAH as an academic resource within the University community.
  3. The Director of UCAH shall hire all curators, to be approved by the Vice President for University Advancement. Under delegated authority from the Director and with the advice of the Collections Committee, the curators shall:
    • Exercise oversight and supervision of the museum collections and be operationally responsible for the management, interpretation, and care of all collection objects owned by, on loan to, and in the temporary custody of the university, including research, documentation, security, physical protection, conservation, storage, access, inventory, and insurance, in accordance with generally accepted museum practices;
    • Advise the Director on procedures necessary to ensure proper management of their respective collections, as well as matters of object conservation, storage and insurance;
    • Develop a collection management procedures manual, which shall be updated as required;
    • Prepare annual collection plans in consultation with other staff members for review by the Director and approval by the Vice President for University Advancement.
  4. The Collections Coordinator shall be responsible for the records management of the collections. This shall include preparation and maintenance of legal documents (gift and loan), data entry, inventory, and tracking of loans, as well as assisting the curators with documentation, security, physical protection, storage, and access to the collections, in accordance with generally accepted museum practices.
  5. All appropriate staff, including student workers, shall be made aware of their basic and continuing responsibility to preserve and protect collection objects on exhibition or in storage.


  1. Objects may be added to the collections by means of gifts, bequests, purchases, exchanges, fieldwork or any other transaction by which title to the objects passes to the institution.
  2. In all cases, acquisitions should meet the basic acquisitions criteria of the University. These assume collections items are:
    • Consistent with the mission and purpose of the UCAH, as well as the mission of the University;
    • Useful in the University's educational, exhibition, research or interpretation activities;
    • Received in reasonably good condition so that they may be preserved with as little alteration as possible, or be accompanied by funds that will allow the university to provide for the exhibition, storage, security, and preservation of the object under conditions that ensure its availability for educational or related purposes and are in keeping with the appropriate standards;
    • Accompanied by verifiable provenance data; and
    • Unencumbered by donor, trademark, copyright or other restrictions.

Exceptions to this policy require final approval by the Vice President for University Advancement and, if required, the Board of Trustees. If an object is deemed significant enough to accept with limitations, the conditions will be stated in the instrument of conveyance, made part of the accession record for the object, and be observed by the institution.

3. The University limits its accessioned collections managed by UCAH to two types:

  • Permanent Collection, which defines all of the University Chapel and Reeves Collections, as well as significant portions of the fine arts collections. This includes original, rare, and generally irreplaceable items preserved for the future and used primarily for exhibit and educational purposes. The permanent collection may also include a select number of reproduced, abundant, replaceable items that may be consumed in use as research, teaching or loan materials. The Permanent Collection may be exhibited in the following areas: University Chapel and Museum, Reeves Center and Watson Pavilion, Lee House, Morris House, Washington Hall, Wilson Hall, Leyburn Library, and Lewis Hall. Other exhibition areas may be added, but must be recommended by the director and curators, and approved by the Collections Committee.
  • Campus Collection, which is restricted to the fine arts collections that are minimally valued, used as campus decoration in less secure public spaces on campus, and are not suitable for use by UCAH or by other academic departments for instructional purposes.

D. The curators shall determine the appropriateness of an object to be considered for their respective collections by reviewing the following before making recommendations for acquisition: the physical object, quality of the object, significance to the collections, condition of the object, provenance, title, and condition of the donation. The appropriate curator shall then:

  • Accept objects for consideration into the temporary custody of the university and issue a signed receipt (see Temporary Deposits, Section X).
  • Make recommendations of all accessions to the director. After initial approval, written recommendations shall then be made to the Collections Committee for consideration and approval.

E. All gifts or purchases shall be accompanied by a legal instrument of conveyance setting forth an adequate description of the object(s), stating the precise conditions of the transfer, and signed by the donor or seller and an authorized representative of the University (director or curators of UCAH). The collections coordinator shall prepare the deed of gift for signatures and shall then:

  • Promptly accession objects upon acceptance and receipt.
  • Submit copies of signed legal documents and donor correspondence to the Office of University Advancement or notify Auxiliary Services of purchases.
  • Prepare an annual report to the director and curators listing all new accessions at the end of each calendar year, to be submitted to the Vice President for University Advancement.

F. The University Collections of Art and History also accepts non-collection items: materials donated to the university but not appropriate for the permanent collections. These are restricted to the Reeves Center library, as well as to interpretive and functional materials, including equipment. Furniture and carpets, other than those of museum quality, value or historical significance that support the UCAH mission, will not be accessioned into the collection, will be considered "furnishings" by the University, and will be inventoried as is all other University property by Auxiliary Services. Those items offered to UCAH for specific use, as outlined herein, and deemed appropriate by the director or respective curator, may be recommended to the Collections Committee. After notification of and approval by the Collections Committee and, if necessary, approved by the Vice President for University Advancement, the acceptance of these gifts shall be in writing by the appropriate curator on a form other than the collection gift form (Deed of Gift). The gift will be reported by the collections coordinator to the Office of Advancement, as well as to Auxiliary Services for property control.

G. The University will not knowingly purchase or accept as a gift, loan, or deposit objects of any kind that it has reason to believe have been illegally exported from the country of origin, acquired in violation of the laws and regulations of the federal government or of an individual state, stolen, or otherwise obtained under circumstances that contravene relevant professional standards.


A. All donations and bequests are considered outright and unconditional gifts to be used at the discretion of the University. In consultation with the Collections Committee, the appropriate curator will indicate the collection into which the donated or bequeathed objects will be accessioned.

B. Donations and bequests of artifacts that meet the museum's collecting purposes are sought and encouraged. Potential donors must present evidence of clear, legal title to any gift, and must complete a gift agreement (Deed of Gift) form for each donation. Items of questionable provenance or obtained through illicit trade shall not be acquired.

C. In accepting all collections, regardless of the mode of acquisition, UCAH seeks to acquire, in addition to property rights, any copyright, patent, trademark or any other intellectual property rights that may legally restrict the University's full use of the acquisition.

D. Valuation of gifts remains the donor's responsibility. Neither the University nor its staff shall appraise or otherwise value objects for donors or prospective donors. The University may provide donors with the names of qualified appraisers, but the donors themselves must make arrangements for and bear the cost of such appraisals for tax or other purposes. The donor's valuation of the gift is, however, part of its provenance and shall be recorded by the University.

E. In the event that a gift is tendered but not accepted by UCAH, it must be removed from the university within sixty days of notification of the potential donor. All items not removed by this deadline shall automatically become the property of the University and shall be subject to disposal.

F. All procedures as set forth in the University policy regarding solicitation, acceptance, and acknowledgment of gifts will apply to gifts of art and other museum objects. All gifts to UCAH must be reported promptly to the Office for University Advancement by submitting a copy of the signed Deed of Gift and copies of donor correspondence.

G. Donated collection materials shall be retained as long as they continue to:

  • Be relevant to the purposes and activities of the university,
  • Maintain their physical integrity, identity, and authenticity, and
  • Can be properly stored and preserved.

Because the University periodically changes exhibits, no object can be considered for permanent exhibit. Exceptions must be approved by the Collections Committee and, if appropriate, by the Vice President for University Advancement. Accessioned objects may be used for exhibition, study, research, loan, examination, or deaccession.

H. In offers of large, outdoor sculpture, the Director, with recommendation from the Collections Committee, also will obtain the acceptance of the Executive Director of Facilities and Capital Planning, as well as the Vice President for University Advancement.

I. If a quick response to a donor is necessary and the Collections Committee cannot be convened, the Director of UCAH, the appropriate curator, the Chairman of the Collections Committee, and the Vice President for University Advancement jointly may make the decision to accept or decline the offer. In such cases, the following conditions must be met:

  • All the other previously stated requirements must be met;
  • Objects accepted to the collection must not have any restrictions made by the donor.


  1. All purchases of collections must be reported by the collections committee to Auxiliary Services to be entered as property of the University following the Auxiliary Services Policy and Procedures for Purchasing at:


  1. The deaccession process (removal from the collection) shall be cautious, deliberate, scrupulous, and solely for the advancement of UCAH's mission. Objects shall be permanently removed from the collections upon the written recommendation of the respective curator with the approval of the Director and the Collections Committee. For all items appraised above $10,000, approval is also required by the Vice President for University Advancement, who shall consult with the President and, if necessary, the Board of Trustees. In all cases, the criteria for determining whether an object should be deaccessioned include, but are not limited to the following:
    • The object is outside the scope of UCAH's purpose and collecting policy;
    • The object has deteriorated beyond its usefulness for study, exhibition, or instructional purposes, or has been consumed in use;
    • The object duplicates another in the collection or is redundant;
    • The object could be exchanged for a better example;
    • The object has failed to retain its identity or authenticity;
    • The object is beyond the capability of the college to properly preserve, store and use the object;
    • The object is more appropriately placed in another institution's collection;
    • The object has accidentally been accessioned twice.
  2. Deaccessioned materials may be offered for transfer to another department or museum, exchange, gift or sale to other tax-exempt educational or cultural institutions if there are no precatory restrictions concerning their removal. Deaccessioned objects not disposed of in this manner normally shall be sold at advertised public markets and only in a manner that will protect the interests, objectives, and confidentiality of the institution. Funds received from the sale of deaccessioned objects from a designated collection (e.g., the Reeves Collection) shall be used solely for the care, conservation or acquisitions for that specific collection. Exceptions to this provision shall require specific authorization from the Provost.
  3. Objects subject to precatory restrictions shall not be deaccessioned until every effort has been made to comply with the restrictions and to notify the donor, if alive, or his heirs or assigns, if the object was accessioned within the last ten years.
  4. The University does not sanction the sale or gift of deaccessioned objects to its students, employees, officers, alumni, trustees, or to their immediate families or representatives outside the guidelines stated above.
  5. Only in cases where deaccessioned objects are deteriorated or so worn as to prove virtually unusable or otherwise of no historical or educational value will they be discarded or destroyed. Such action will be taken only upon written recommendation of the designated curator to the Collections Committee and, if appropriate, with the approval of the Vice President for University Advancement.
  6. A permanent record of the conditions and circumstances under which objects are deaccessioned and disposed of will be made and retained by the collections coordinator. An annual report listing all deaccessions will be submitted by the collections coordinator to the director and conveyed to the Vice President for University Advancement at the end of each calendar year.


A. Incoming Loans

UCAH may accept short term, temporary loans for specified purposes with recommendation by the designated curator and approval by the Collections Committee. All incoming loan agreements shall be in writing and include relevant information concerning the objects involved, the lending institution or organization, ownership, period of the loan, loan fees, provisions for annual renewal, insurance, cancellation, return of the objects, and any other special stipulations. The University shall exercise all reasonable care so that borrowed items are returned in the same condition as received. Because of the expense of housing, handling, maintaining and insuring loaned materials, the University generally cannot accept indefinite loans from individuals. Loaned objects that the University is unable to return after making all reasonable attempts to do so will be considered abandoned property.

B. Outgoing Loans

UCAH lends materials to similar institutions for its normal, public purposes (e.g. research, exhibition, interpretation) but only under conditions that ensure proper care, security, and environmental protection of its objects. Such loans must be recommended by the designated curator and approved by the Director and Collections Committee, and, if of substantial value, by the Vice President for University Advancement. All outgoing loan agreements shall be in writing and include relevant information concerning the objects involved, the borrowing institution or organization, ownership, period of the loan, loan fees, provisions for annual renewal, insurance, shipping and packing, acknowledgments, reporting requirements, cancellation, return of the objects, and any other special stipulations. Materials on loan may not be photographed or reproduced without written permission from the designated curator. They must be fully insured for loss or damage during shipment and the entire period in which they will be under the borrowing Institution's care and returned promptly and in the same condition as when loaned.

An annual report listing all incoming and outgoing loans will be submitted annually by the collections coordinator to the Director and then to the Provost at the end of each calendar year.

C. Inter-campus Loans

In keeping with the mission and goals of UCAH, selected fine arts collections may be loaned within the institution for educational, exhibition, functional or decorative purposes in designated areas of the campus and under the same conditions as stated above. Approvals and conditions of loans shall be based on UCAH staff review of security and environmental conditions.

  • Priority for such loans shall be given to those objects contained within the Campus Collections and shall be of durable materials and in a condition that can withstand the ordinary strains of display.
  • Objects within the Permanent Collection shall be loaned only to those areas designated in Section V 3.
  • Those objects made of fragile material such as works on paper, regardless of their location, shall be subject to rotation based on specific preservation and conservation requirements.
  • All objects shall remain available for access, including study and research, and may be pulled with notice to the borrower by UCAH for educational purposes, including exhibitions.

UCAH objects are not loaned for private use to the faculty, staff, retirees, students, trustees, or alumni of the University or to their immediate families or representatives.


  1. The collections coordinator will register objects, other than loans (see Loans, Section IX), left temporarily in the custody of the institution for such purposes as examination, identification, attribution, or consideration as potential gifts or purchase.
  2. All objects deposited for such purposes shall be covered by insurance as a loan to the University.
  3. Periodic review of these objects will be made by the appropriate department or office to ensure expeditious handling. Recommendations to accept objects placed in the custody of the University will be made by the designated curator and approved by the director and Collections Committee.
  4. Objects deposited with the University may not be left longer than sixty days. The University accepts no responsibility after initial notification for individuals to claim such deposits. Items not claimed within sixty days of deposit are considered abandoned property and as such are subject to state laws pertaining to the same.


  1. The University accepts responsibility for ensuring the protection and preservation of all objects in the University Collections of Art and History, whether they are on exhibition, in storage, on loan, or in transit.
  2. Exhibition and storage areas shall be monitored by the collections coordinator. Within available funding, the University will meet basic museum standards and maintain the appropriate environmental conditions for all exhibition and storage areas. This includes protection against harmful light, temperature extremes, humidity, dirt, pests, and improper handling.
  3. The curators, under the supervision of the director, shall be responsible for monitoring conservation needs in their respective areas of expertise. Within available funding, upon the recommendation to the director from the appropriate curator, and with notification to the Collections Committee, the University will give priority attention to objects in need of conservation by contracting with qualified conservators. All conservation treatment shall be documented and a permanent record kept by the collections coordinator within the object files.
  4. Conservation of UCAH objects will be in accordance with the following general principles:
    • Conservation actions will be governed by respect for the historical, aesthetic, and physical integrity of objects;
    • Conservation actions will adhere to the highest standard of treatment, regardless of the quality or monetary value of the objects;
    • Only those conservation treatments appropriate to the preservation of specific objects will be performed;
    • Conservation actions will be guided by the "principle of reversibility;"
    • Conservation action will have as their primary objective the protection of the original character of the objects.
  5. Appropriate attention should be given to the packing and shipping of collection items moving in and out of UCAH. The collections coordinator, under the supervision of the respective curator, shall be responsible for monitoring these activities in their respective areas of expertise.
  6. Objects in the UCAH will not be moved from assigned locations without staff approval. Immediately upon relocation, the collections coordinator will record the new location in the collections management database.


  1. Within available funding and where circumstances warrant, the administration of the collections will be in accordance with the appropriate security systems and emergency procedures. Responsibilities and procedures to adequately protect against and handle such emergencies as fire, theft, vandalism, and natural disasters shall be outlined in an Emergency Procedures Manual, to be updated annually.


  1. UCAH will maintain appropriate registration and curatorial records as outlined in the Collections Management Procedures Manual.
  2. Registration records shall include a descriptive catalog record as well as evidence of legal ownership or possession of all objects. Records shall relate to objects by a unique identification number (E.g., accession or loan number) and provide for easy retrieval of object information and the object itself. Records of accessioned objects should further reflect the prior history of ownership of each object and all activity of the object (loans, exhibitions, conservation, deaccession). Records of objects on loan to the University (Incoming loans) should reflect all activities of the objects while under the control of UCAH.
  3. All registration records should be timely made, housed in secure locations, and physically preserved by proper handling and storage methods. A duplicate copy of registration records should be made and should be stored outside UCAH offices as a security precaution. The computer collections database should include all aspects outlined above and should be secured and back-up regularly to preserve the integrity of the records.
  4. Procedures and responsibilities for maintaining all registration records shall be outlined in UCAH's Collections Management Procedures Manual, to be updated by the collections coordinator as needed.
  5. Curatorial records shall be maintained by the respective curators within object files marked by accession numbers, and will be easily retrievable when required.


  1. A complete inventory of the Permanent Collection shall be made at least every five years. Curators shall conduct annual spot-check inventories of the most significant objects and an annual complete inventory shall be made by the collections coordinator during the summer of all inter-campus loans. If an object is reported missing and all efforts to locate it have been exhausted, then a written report shall be submitted to the director and Collections Committee. On an annual basis, the curators shall examine their collections to determine the status of the record system and the physical condition of objects susceptible to deterioration.


  1. The University makes collection materials available for educational purposes through exhibition and interpretive programs. Special access for scholarly purposes is available by appointment.
  2. Only the Director of UCAH, Associate Director/Curator of UCAH, Curator of Ceramics/Manager of Reeves Center, Collections Coordinator, and staff members with specifically delegated authority, including supervised student assistants, shall have access to the permanent collections, storage areas, and collection records of the University. Others shall not be allowed in the storage areas without prior approval of the director or curators and with the supervision of an authorized staff member.
  3. Those wishing to photograph for publication or otherwise duplicate any materials from the collections must receive prior written permission from the director or respective curator. If the item in question is to be photographed for publication or other display, it must be correctly labeled or captioned, crediting Washington and Lee University as the source of the material. In return for such permission, the University may levy a fee at its discretion. All descriptive captions of photographs intended for publication or display shall be previewed and approved in advance by the designated curator. A copy of any publication in which Washington and Lee University collections material appears shall be provided to the University without charge.
  4. Reproductions, adaptations, and interpretations of objects in UCAH may be authorized by the Director of UCAH with the approval of the Collections Committee and, if appropriate, the approval of the Vice President for University Advancement, subject to such instructions as will safeguard the original object and protect the interests of the institution. The sale or licensing of reproductions by outside entities is prohibited, unless specific permission has been granted in writing by the appropriate authorities.
  5. The University reserves the right to refuse access to or use of its collections.


It is the responsibility of all staff members to recognize their responsibilities as guardians of irreplaceable objects and as University employees. Every staff member shall be guided by the standards prescribed in Museum Ethics and endorsed by the Board of Trustees of Washington and Lee University through this policy.

University employees shall refrain from all activities that may be construed as creating a conflict of interest between their professional responsibilities and outside interests. The Vice President for University Advancement shall be made aware of any possible conflict and take action as appropriate.

Revision History

Conditionally approved by the Collections Committee, April 13, 2010.
Changes completed, July 2010.

September 16, 2013 -- updated to reflect that the committee now reports to the Vice President for University Advancement, instead of the Provost; also, established role for collections coordinator in place of curatorial assistant.

Revised July 29, 2021 to change the name of Lee Chapel per bylaw revision adopted June 2021.