«Can be considered as a museum (…) any permanent collection of works open to the public, with an artistic, historical or archaeological interest» (edict 45-1546 of 13/7/45, art.2). Therefore, there is no museum without collections. Collections can be of a great diversity whether they present traditional fields such as fine arts, history, archaeology, popular arts and traditions, local history or open to the technical or scientific ones.
«The museum is a permanent and non-profit-making institution in the service of society and its development; it is open to the public and it acquires, preserves, studies, exhibits and transmits the material and immaterial heritage of mankind and its environment for the purposes of studying, educating and reveling.»
Definition given by the ICOM, The International Council Of the Museums.
The collections in the labeled museums «Museums of France» belong to the public domain whose heritage they constitute. They are inalienable and the statute of limitations does not apply to them. In other words, once a work has been acquired by a museum, it cannot be sold nor marketed but it can be borrowed by other museums or deposited. Some association museums or those depending on local authorities such as the town councils, the departments or the regions can request the Museums of France management to control their collections. They can thus enjoy the advantages that derive from this:
- scientific and technical councils by the General Inspection of the Museums of France and the Management of the Museums of France;
- deposits of some works of art or objects from the national collections in the museums;
- the collections are exhibited to the public
- the collections are controlled by a curator
- the status of the association includes a clause on the inalienability and devolution of the association collections to a public person in the case of the dissolution of the association.
The works belonging to the collections of a museum are part of a collective heritage, whether the museum is national, regional or municipal…
The collections are not always the same, new works still enrich them. The different ways to acquire new works of art are:
- the purchase of them from private individuals or art dealers or in a public sale – a part of the receipts from the entrance fees is used for the purpose of it;
- donations: some works of art can be used to pay for inheritance tax;
- deposits: some works belonging to other museums or administrations can be deposited in a museum;
- bequests or donations by a collector or the descendants of artists;
- bequests, that is to say donations determined by a will at the donor’s death;
- corporate sponsorships;
- donations by museums societies.
Curators have scientific and technical responsibilities. They aim at studying, classifying, preserving, maintaining, emphasizing and developing the heritage. They can take part in this action by teaching or publishing. They are in charge of the permanent collections, the organization of temporary exhibitions and the writing of catalogues.