Registrar for Exhibitions and Loans
Gender pronouns: she/her/hers
The RISD Museum is open. We look forward to your visit.
Rhode Island School of Design
224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903
We had a lengthy workshop with our insurer for museum property. Reassuring. Productive. Would recommend.
They advised us that the lender and borrower should come up with an agreed upon value for each item loaned.
We can use an appraiser if we want, but it is not at all necessary for insurance valuation, nor does it add any legitimacy to the valuation (per our insurer, risk management and legal).
We estimate a value based on what it would cost to replace an item, since we care for vertebrate fossils, which do not have a legal market value.
One interesting bit... if items are damaged and we claim a full insured value, those items are then property of the insurance company, and they are typically obliged to destroy them.
So be mindful of that should you have an item that is damaged, but could be salvaged.
Talk to your insurer, ours specializes in museum property, your might have very different ideas.
J. Chris Sagebiel (he/him/his), collections manager
Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections
J.J. Pickle Campus, The University of Texas
10100 Burnet Road, VPL Bldg. 6
Austin, Texas 78758
This is a difficult question we face every time we send items out on loan, and indeed for incoming loans as well as lenders, particularly private lenders, look to us for guidance. As what we collect are not just the objects, but the provenance that goes with them, many of our objects are in fact, irreplaceable. While yes, we can replace some objects one to one with equally good stories, other items have value far beyond their market value because we cannot replace them. With these we factor in market value but what we arrive at is a "feel good" value. In other words, what would make you feel better, to continue to improve your collection, if this item were irreparably damaged or lost. Clearly the chances of this are low if you have vetted the borrowing institution.
We have worked with our insurance company in determining worth on some objects that suffered water damage due to a roof leak. In that case we were able to have them cover the cost of conservation treatment, as the objects in question weren't destroyed, but damaged, and required cleaning and restoration.
This is an excellent question! Being the Registrar and the one to deal with the collection insurance and documenting the objects in the collection, I am the one to typically research the insurance value before an object goes out on loan. The first place I look are at auction results for similar or exact objects in the last several years. As the market continuously changes, looking at auctions too far back can be unhelpful in estimating a current estimated insurance value. This will help in establishing a replacement value, which is what insurance companies tend to look for. I always start at liveauctioneers.com, Sotheby's, Christie's, and the like depending on the type of object. If you believe the object to be quite valuable, but the auction results you are finding don't seem to line up (which I've experienced), it is recommended to have a professional appraisal completed prior to lending the object. While in most cases you won't have any issues with lending an object, you always want to prepare for the worst and assign an accurate insurance value for the object. Borrowing institutions may require this as well in order to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage while your object is on loan to them. I hope you find this helpful!
I would like to pose an adjacent question to you knowledgable folks: I have a former colleague who is, as a volunteer, trying to assist with the arrangements and implementation of an exhibition of art objects of considerable material value to be loaned by private collectors (a couple). The owners do not hold their own rider for the collection.
The exhibition will be installed in a space controlled by an association of artists who do not insure their temporary exhibitions of contemporary, living artists who typically lend (or submit) knowing this is the case.
Can someone among you suggest a means toward insuring the collection while it is in the temporary exhibition?
Lots of good information posted here and this is certainly not an exact science. A couple of points to reinforce or add:
as the curator of a specific collection, you may be the person most qualified to set the value
if you can find a recent value online, remember to add auction fees, sales tax, shipping/handling, and the value of the time of the curator to find a replacement
consider adjusting the values in your system for inflation
if in doubt go a little higher and make the insurance company argue you down, much easier than fighting uphill because of an out of date value. Losing the item may have a significant impact on your collection, having out of pocket financial obligations would only compound the issue
worthpoint.com is a site that compiles sales values from many platforms, though it requires a subscription
American Alliance of Museums2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1005Arlington, VA 22202