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  • 1.  Setting Insurance Values for Outgoing Loans

    Posted 05-31-2023 04:06 PM
    Hello all,

    I am wondering how other museums are researching and setting insurance values for Outgoing loans these days.  I assume that it is the curator that is responsible for this work.  What resources/people do they access to set the insurance values?  Have you found any pros or cons with different resources or any changes in the past few years? 

    Thanks.  I am happy to discuss offline, if that is easier. 


    Tara Emsley

    Registrar for Exhibitions and Loans

    Gender pronouns: she/her/hers


    T   401-454-6527

    F   401-454-6556


    The RISD Museum is open. We look forward to your visit.




    Rhode Island School of Design

    224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903


  • 2.  RE: Setting Insurance Values for Outgoing Loans

    Posted 06-01-2023 08:06 AM

    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


  • 3.  RE: Setting Insurance Values for Outgoing Loans

    Posted 06-02-2023 08:58 AM
    Hello Tara, 

    At our institution, we don't have anyone on staff who is able to assign insurance values for outgoing loan items. Instead, we use an accredited appraiser to do this. We let borrowers know about this right at the very beginning of a loan request, since we ask that they pay for it. We just have a verbal appraisal done for most things, but a written one for items of exceptional monetary or cultural value. This has worked well for us so far. We feel like we have accurate numbers from a professional whose job it is to do exactly this task. We provide the names and contact info to the borrower for two or three appraisers we're comfortable with and let the borrower talk to them about their fees and procedures. Once they've selected someone, we schedule the appraisal. 

    Like I said, this has worked out well for us and we haven't had pushback from borrowers since we explain it right at the beginning.


  • 4.  RE: Setting Insurance Values for Outgoing Loans

    Posted 06-01-2023 09:20 AM

    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.

    Amy Thompson
    Maine State Museum
    Augusta ME

  • 5.  RE: Setting Insurance Values for Outgoing Loans

    Posted 06-01-2023 10:15 AM

    Hi Tara,

    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, 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!

    Kathryne Applegate
    Collections Manager and Registrar
    Massillon Museum
    Massillon OH

  • 6.  RE: Setting Insurance Values for Outgoing Loans

    Posted 06-02-2023 08:55 AM

    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?

    Thank you!

    Vivian Zoe
    Executive Director, retired
    Gales Ferry CT

  • 7.  RE: Setting Insurance Values for Outgoing Loans

    Posted 06-02-2023 08:36 AM

    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 is a site that compiles sales values from many platforms, though it requires a subscription

    John Corcoran
    Director, Attraction Development
    Ripley Entertainment
    Orlando FL