stevestory (1).doc - Balancing Public Benefit and Fair Compensation A Primer for Special Collections/Photograph Reproduction Policies By Steve A

stevestory (1).doc - Balancing Public Benefit and Fair...

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Balancing Public Benefit and Fair Compensation: A Primer for Special Collections/Photograph Reproduction Policies By Steve A. Anderson, Director, Renton Historical Museum Museums across Washington State own a wealth of photographic imagery. Their collections are unique historic and cultural mosaics of a past that is increasingly in demand. Because of rarity, these invaluable photographs, scrap books, plat maps, ephemera, newspapers and other such “special collections” are being sought out by today’s nostalgia-smitten society. Given these realities, and the fact that photographic reproduction is a unique service that museums provide, any site offering this kind of service needs to be compensated for it at the price the history-hungry market is willing to pay. The commercial business world understands this and is eager for photographic images that will sell their corporate image, products and services. When one thinks about it, the coming millennium is like a two-way mirror. There will not only be an increase of looking towards the future, but also looking to the past and remembering what was. This has, in reality, already begun. Witness the marketing success of retro clothing fashions from the 1970s, and movies scripts set against historic events like Titanic and Saving Private Ryan . Ken Burns’ highly acclaimed PBS series Civil War is yet another indicator of this phenomena. Like it or not, heritage is hot, history is big, and the images of our past are increasingly in demand. In response to this fact, all of Washington State’s heritage institutions need to seriously address a fundamental issue involving the use of these assets—assets that are irrevocably dedicated to a public purpose but which are, in some cases, supporting private ends. In many instances, no domain of museum operation is more exposed to abuse than that concerning photographic reproduction or the private use of special collections. It is estimated that two factors play out in allowing these abuses to continue: (1) many institutions simply lack a comprehensive photographic reproduction policy; and/or (2) possess one that is out-of-step with market demand or lacks sufficient guidelines and fee structures. Properly implemented, such policies can greatly reduce exploitation and improper (read uncompensated) use of museum images, be immediate revenue generators and make life easier for all concerned. The private parties responsible for committing some of these abuses can arrive at your institutions as consultants, graduate students, commercial vendors, interior designers, genealogists or hobbyist/collectors. No matter the circumstance of the party asking, it is unreasonable to demand that one be personally enriched at public expense—at your institution’s expense.
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  • Spring '14
  • PatriciaG.Berman

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