museum paintings and treasures

Historical Items Museums Want

If you’re a history buff, you might enjoy estate sales, antique markets, and storage treasure hunting. There’s no telling what treasures you may find from a bygone age. Mementos from decades-old political campaigns, letters, diaries, newspapers, magazines, and more. All of these tell a story and give us a sense of being in a historic moment.

Is it Museum-Worthy?

Museums, libraries, and historical societies have limited space and budgets. They have guidelines regarding what types of materials they accept. Many objects are beautiful and interesting, but items added to a permanent collection need to be representative and unique. According to curator Elspeth Kursh, “diaries, pamphlets, photographs of people, or mass produced books” generally won’t make the cut. Here are some tips when assessing items for posterity:

  • Check the museum’s wish list to determine exactly what they are looking for.
  • Look up items online to get a sense of their rarity, and to see if they appear on any wish lists.
  • If you have no luck with museums, consider selling to an antique shop or becoming an antique dealer yourself.

What Museums Want to Buy

One example of a collection coveted by museum curators is the Wright Collection, which contains thousands of pieces of political campaign memorabilia. The variety of objects both rare and common interests curators because they’re so expansive. However, even this vast collection remains in storage, partly because researching and cataloging so many items take a lot of time and resources.

If you’re a collector yourself, consider taking a page out of Burt Reynolds’s hoarder book by opening your own museum. Remember, the purpose of a museum is to tell a story to the public through cultural artifacts. If your items aren’t ready for a permanent exhibit, you might organize a pop-up museum in your community.

Need help filling up your museum? Visit Storage Treasures to find online and live storage auctions.

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