When a museum has something it doesn't want, it "deacessions" the piece. That is, out it goes -- hopefully generating a little cash the museum can use to purchase something it does want (at least at the moment).
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is no different, except that (in a nod toward transparency) all of us can wander through a new searchable database of recently deaccessioned artworks.
The database includes information on works the museum has identified for sale and their valuations since late 2007, when the museum began a comprehensive review of its collection to identify candidates for deaccessioning (e.g. sale, transfer or exchange).
Since then, the furniture, antiquities, textiles, American painting, European painting and contemporary collections have been reviewed and assessed. The decorative arts, Asian art and African collections are currently under review with additional works proposed for deaccessioning to be presented for approval at the May and December 2009 Collections Committee and Board of Governors meetings.
Some items the IMA possesses were never actually accepted. These unaccessioned objects in the collection will also be reviewed for possible deaccessioning. They will be advertised in The Indianapolis Star in accordance with the State of Indiana’s legislation governing abandoned cultural property in an effort to find the original owners and/or to gain clear title. After the required waiting period, all abandoned cultural property will either be accessioned or deaccessioned. So, if you think a friend or family member might have given something to the IMA, check that list to see if they can get it back.