The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents



Carole F. Huxley



Full Board



Draft Regents Rules for Museums and Historical Society Charters



May 28, 2004






Need to update and clarify generally accepted professional standards of operation



Goals 4 and 5








In close collaboration over more than a year, the Museum Association of New York, the New York State Council on the Arts, the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the SED’s Office of Cultural Education developed a set of standards and practices that should be requisite for an absolute charter.


The rationale for updating the standards and making them more rigorous was a conviction that many fewer institutions would develop fiscal, stewardship or managerial problems if their boards and staff had clearer guidance on their responsibilities and the level of performance deemed necessary for a viable operation.  The measurable standards are aligned to those required for national accreditation but also designed to be flexible enough to apply to small as well as major institutions.  Those standards now form the basis for a new draft set of Regents Rules.


At your September Regents Public Policy Conference, you heard from museum and historical society staff and trustees on the first draft of the standards.  In January the Cultural Education Committee reviewed a document that had been refined by the Conference comments and subsequent reviews by regional groups.  Staff, with the Museum Association and the Council on the Arts, consulted on which of the standards needed regulatory status and which are more appropriate as guidance and best practices.  Last month you received from me the current Regents Rules, unchanged since the 1980s. The attachment includes major elements that are being proposed as amendments to Regents Rules.  By July the draft regulations will be fully ready for field review, and they will be available to you before they are made public.  We will then mail the draft to stakeholders and, in cooperation with the Museum Association, hold regional meetings during the summer to solicit comments.


In September, the Cultural Education Committee will review the amendments to the regulations and in November the final regulations will be before the Board for approval.



Elements of Proposed Amendments to Regents Rules for Chartered Museums and Historical Societies



Revision of: Regents Rules 3.27 and 3.30

Statutory authority: Education Law §216


We simplify the process for historical societies that do not hold collections of artifacts:

·       These are typically small, all volunteer organizations.

·       These societies may obtain a Regents certificate of incorporation, rather than a charter.

·       Such a certificate need not be renewed.


Institutions holding collections will meet higher standards for acquisition, accessioning, protection and care:

·       We spell out standards for acquisition, accessioning and stewardship of collections.

·       We fine-tune existing de-accessioning language.

·       Collections may not be used as collateral for a loan.

·       Collections will not be capitalized (treated as financial assets or listed on a balance sheet).

·       Collections must be promptly accessioned.

·       We provide standards for loans from the collection.

·       Incoming loans must be insured.

·       Institutions must clarify the status of old and undocumented loans.

·       We ask institutions that deaccession items from the collection to first offer such objects to other museums for donation, exchange, trade or purchase.

·       Museums will provide their mission statements to donors, benefactors and potential donors or testators.


We will require mission statements: 

·       Every institution will have a written mission statement based on the corporate purposes in its charter and will review it every three to five years.


We clarify our practices with respect to corporate names.


We set out measures for improved governance:

·       Boards will effectively advance diversity in their membership, staff, volunteers and programs.

·       We require Board adoption of a written code of ethics.

·       We spell out the Board relationship between a museum or society and another related organization.


We require improved financial oversight by a Board:


We provide standards for programs, operations and facilities:


We require that any plan for dissolution or dispersal of assets follow State law.


We provide for the renewal of a museum or historical society’s registration at five-year intervals.


We provide additional definitions.