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In a ceremony held in Dover’s Old State House on March 8, 2018, Gov. John Carney signed into law the Abandoned Cultural Property Act, which allows Delaware museums to establish title to property that has been donated or left with them after a loan period has terminated and the lender could not be found. The law allows more efficient use of museum funds and assists museums in conserving, displaying and, when necessary, ethically disposing of abandoned, unclaimed or unsolicited property.
Among those speaking at the ceremony were state Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, the bill’s primary sponsor; and state senators Nicole Poore and Ernesto Lopez and state Rep. Paul Bombach who also served as sponsors of the legislation. Additional speakers included Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Director Tim Slavin; Dan Citron, executive director of the New Castle Historical Society and president of the Delaware Museum Association; and Dr. Kasey Grier, director of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware and two students from the program—Sara McNamara and Kathryn Lenart.
The issue of what to do with abandoned cultural property had long been discussed by members of the Delaware Museum Association. According to Citron, “Legislation to fix the problem has been on our wish list for some time, but we knew that the process of researching other states’ legislation and then drafting something would be time-consuming.” During such discussions, Grier and Suzanne Savery, deputy director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, came up with the idea of asking graduate students in the Museum Studies Program to take on the research project.
The six students who participated in the project—Lenart, McNamara, Tess Frydman, Sharon Hess, Sam Christensen and Sara Berndt—accepted their charge with passion and commitment. After conducting research and presenting their findings to Spiegelman, he agreed to sponsor the legislation in Delaware’s General Assembly. Praising the students’ efforts, Spiegelman noted that the legislation “started as a graduate-student project and ended up [with the governor signing the bill into law] in The Old State House.”
Using the signing ceremony as a vehicle to honor the six student-researchers, Citron announced that they had been awarded the Delaware Museum Association’s Delaware Diamond Award for their efforts.
For press accounts of the signing ceremony, go to the following:
New law aids museums
UDaily, University of Delaware, Newark—March 20, 2018
DE House Bill 231 in effect giving museums legal ownership to property
WMDT TV, Salisbury, Md.—March 8, 2018