Acquisition Policies

The following is a brief summary of the policies that guide the museum in the acquisition of new objects into the collections. Please refer to the Collection’s Manual for the complete acquisition policy.

An acquisition is defined by the transfer of title of an object from a donor to the Institute.

Title of an object transfers legally to the Institute when three conditions are met: the intent is clear of a person or entity to donate, the object is transferred physically to the institution, and the institution formally accepts the donation.

All acquisitions are made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the educational, scientific, and research purposes of MIT Museum. In addition to the policies set forth here, acquisitions are subject to MIT’s Archival Policy and Policy on Acquisition of Art and Artifacts.

The museum collects artifacts for its permanent collections in the form of apparatus, models, instruments, paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, decorative arts, memorabilia, audiovisual materials, and documentary written materials.

Objects may be acquired from academic and administrative offices within the Institute or from non-MIT related organizations and private individuals in the form of gifts, purchases, transfers of Institute property, bequests, and exchanges with other repositories.

The museum does not accept acquisitions on which restrictions or special conditions, other than donor recognition, have been placed. Exceptions to this policy must be considered by the Collections Committee and approved by the director.

Due to limited exhibition space and periodically changing exhibitions, no commitments shall be made to exhibit objects acquired for the collections in the museum’s galleries for any duration of time.

Selected MIT publications are collected for internal reference and exhibition purposes. The Institute Archives and Special Collections is the repository for MIT’s official publications. The museum does not maintain the archives of the Institute, nor does it collect the papers or manuscripts of professors, faculty, or staff unless they have first been offered to the Institute Archives and then only if the material meets the museum's requirements for acquisition.

Potential acquisitions must meet three basic criteria:

  • Relevance: the object must support the Museum’s mission and fit within its stated collecting goals.
  • Use: the object must have the capacity for use in exhibitions and/or for research and scholarly purposes.
  • Condition: the object must be in reasonable condition and must not require significant expense for treatment in order to make it relevant or useful unless such funds are provided for by the donor or other sources such as grants or by other special arrangements with another institution or organization.

Refer to the MIT Museum Collections Manual for more details, or contact Joan Whitlow, Registrar and Collections Manager, at 617-253-4266 or jwhitlow@mit.edu.

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