The museum is temporarily closed. Learn more.

Building the Collection

Our mission is to enrich the community by collecting, preserving, and making accessible outstanding works of art from the world’s diverse cultures. Mia believes that it is in the public interest to judiciously expand the collection to ensure that it represents the full range of creative expressions of peoples the world over, past and present.

Why does Mia acquire artworks?

Mia actively collects artworks in recognition of our changing world. The study of art continues to evolve. New discoveries are made and past prejudices about what constitutes “art” are overcome. Contemporary artists produce artworks that expand our understanding of art and challenge dominant opinions and worldviews.

How does Mia acquire artworks?

Mia’s collecting strategy is determined by Mia’s leadership and curators in consideration of the existing collection, the values and interests of the communities that Mia serves, the availability of artworks on the art market, and legal guidelines determined by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United States government, and the laws of other countries, when applicable.

Mia acquires artworks in the following ways:

  • •As a gift or bequest from an individual donor or other entity such as an estate, business, or foundation
  • •Purchase, directly from an owner or via an entity representing an owners’ interests or from an auction house or art gallery
  • •As a commission directly from an artist

When an artwork is considered for acquisition, rigorous research is performed to ensure that all available information about the artwork is known, including:

  • •Its past and current ownership
  • •Documented proof of an artwork’s legal export from its source country
  • •Any outstanding ownership claims on the artwork
  • •Whether it is a sacred object currently venerated by a cultural or religious group

Once it has been determined that the artwork fits Mia’s collecting strategy, meets Mia’s standards of aesthetic quality and physical condition, and falls within legal and ethical guidelines, the curator will create an Accession Proposal for the artwork. The Accession Proposal documents the artwork’s history of ownership, justifies its acquisition in light of the collection strategy, outlines future plans for its public presentation, and identifies the manner through which the artwork would be acquired. This document is presented to the Accessions Committee, composed of members of the Board of Trustees, who are empowered to approve or refuse the artwork’s accession. When an artwork enters Mia’s collection, Mia posts a photograph of the artwork along with its identifying information to our collection site, Once it has been determined that the artwork fits Mia’s collecting strategy, meets Mia’s standards of aesthetic quality and physical condition, and falls within legal and ethical guidelines, the curator will create an Accession Proposal for the artwork. The Accession Proposal documents the artwork’s history of ownership, justifies its acquisition in light of the collection strategy, outlines future plans for its public presentation, and identifies the manner through which the artwork would be acquired. This document is presented to the Accessions Committee, composed of members of the Board of Trustees, who are empowered to approve or refuse the artwork’s accession. When an artwork enters Mia’s collection, Mia posts a photograph of the artwork along with its identifying information to our collection site, www.collections.artsmia.org, ensuring that the artwork can be found by the public.”>www.collections.artsmia.org, ensuring that the artwork can be found by the public.

What policies and laws does Mia follow when it acquires artworks?

Mia follows acquisition guidelines determined by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), an organization comprised of museum directors from Canada, Mexico, and the United States that advocates on behalf of art museums and develops policies governing their activities. These policies are based in existing law and international conventions and are updated as necessary.

In the United States, the following laws govern institutional ownership and importation of works of art and archaeological materials:

Concerning antiquities and archaeological materials, Mia follows AAMD’s 2013 guidelines derived from the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) guidelines to combat the illegal import, export, or transfer of ownership of cultural property.

Mia will only acquire archaeological materials or antiquities that left their countries of origin before 1970 or were legally exported from their countries of origin after 1970. Many countries have laws governing the export of cultural property that predate the 1970 convention and in these cases, Mia respects the precedence of these earlier laws.

What is Mia’s policy on acquiring and caring for artworks that are sacred to indigenous cultures?

Mia follows guidelines provided by AAMD’s Report of the AAMD Subcommittee on the Acquisition and Stewardship of Sacred Objects (2006). As defined by AAMD, “sacred works of art are venerated objects created for use in the ritual or ceremonial practice of a traditional religion. They are distinct from religious works of art, which serve to express religious ideas, values, or feelings.” As a secular organization, Mia is poorly equipped to determine what objects in its collection are sacred and will work, when possible, with indigenous cultural and traditional religious leaders to identify sacred objects. Mia will approach the acquisition of sacred artworks with utmost caution, and in consultation with indigenous cultural and traditional religious leaders.

For artworks already in the collection, Mia will seek to work with indigenous cultural and traditional religious leaders to develop guidelines for their storage and public presentation at Mia.

What is Mia doing to decolonize its collection?

Decolonization, in the context of museums, means to address the ways that colonialism and white supremacy have shaped a collection. Many museums, including Mia, are examining their collections and current practices to ensure that objects are acquired, displayed, and interpreted in a manner consistent with contemporary standards. To learn more about our decolonization goals, please visit Decolonizing the Collection.