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  • June 25, 2016, 09:47:14 PM

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Author Topic: Not Going To Happen 'Cause I'm Not Harry Potter (Impossible Patron Requests)  (Read 1035143 times)

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This happened about ten years ago to a curator friend I'll call Jane.

Jane was delivering a paper at a conference on Egyptian art. At a reception after the meeting, Jane was approached by a member of the audience.  He claimed to have an Ancient Egyptian object, showed her photographs and asked Jane to identify to what period the object belonged.

To Jane, the object looked like nothing produced in Pharaonic Egypt.  In fact, it looked more Meso-American than anything else. Was the presenter sure this was Egyptian?

He was perfectly sure that it was Egyptian.  You see, he'd made it himself to be Egyptian. Now, it was Jane's job to tell him what period he'd made.  :o

I realize this story is hard to believe but, having encountered similar queries during my working life, I have no problem believing that Jane's story is absolutely genuine.

Not at all. When I was working the mummies exhibit, people would brag that so and so from their family had mummy parts from their travels.  ::)

I have to tell this story now.

In college I worked over the summer with a state natural history museum putting their old files into a database. The guy in charge of the geology/paleongology collections (Tom) had great stories. People in the state would often call or bring rocks/fossils to the museum for identification.

One day a guy somehow got Tom's number and called asking to have a rock identified. You see, there was a star singing outside his window the night before. He got so tired of it singing, that he took his shotgun out and shot it. The next morning he found a rock in his driveway that he was pretty sure came from the star. If he drove all the way to the state capital with it, did Tom think he could identify what kind of star he'd shot?

Tom was pretty quick on his feet. He explained to the guy that as a state museum, we could only identify rocks that came from the state. To have his star identified, the guy would need to call a museum like the Smithsonian. That seemed to placate the guy because he thanked Tom for his time and got off the phone. But not before asking Tom if he had the number for the Smithsonian.

Tom didn't, but he did wish the guy luck in his efforts.


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I worked at a small museum in West Texas. All employees and volunteers had to be trained to not accept donated artwork. People would walk in and try to donate either their own work or the treasure they found in their attic, at a garage sale. We would have to tell them, you have to fill out this paperwork and present it to the board. It has been nearly 20 years so I don't remember all the ins and outs but there were major legal reasons for this.

The other were some employees. It was when the first digital cameras were available to the general public. I had one of the sony ones that you put the floppy disk it. They asked me to bring it over because they needed to take a picture of art pieces recently acquired (we had just had a major juried competition and pieces were acquired so that was legit). I figured it was either for the data base or as a place holder for some publicity until the official photographer could take pictures and develop them.

I get over there (I was at the children's museum down the street) and no that wasn't it. While the director, curator, and official photographer were out, the other staff decided to make postcards of the new pieces and sell them in the gift shop as a surprise. I told them you can't do that we don't own the copyright*. They kept arguing. Knowing them I gave them the camera - went into an office and called the former curator.  She had left because of a family tragedy several years before, but still helped out sometimes. I told her what was going on. We agreed I would leave - had to because I had a field trip coming. She would drop by, discover what was happening, and explain copyright. If that didn't work she would contact Director, at his conference, so he could put a stop to it.  Fortunately they listened to former curator. We also had staff development on copyright law. 

*For some reason the Director had thought it was a good idea for a dyslexic to proof read some of the paper work. I pointed out this was a bad idea, but had gotten to the part were the artist specifically still owned the copyright and we had permission to use photographs for insurance, promotion of exhibits/the museum, and a catalog for loaning out items. We could not sell reproductions of the image.  I asked him about it and he said - The artist maintains ownership of the copyright of a piece of art unless specifically released to the buyer. The buyer owns the object the artist still owns the idea.
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