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December 14, 2008

NY museums may be able to sell works to pay debt

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state board that oversees New York museums may consider allowing them to sell artwork, artifacts and other works to pay back debt, a change of policy some museum backers say would threaten quality collections.



The state Board of Regents started working on an "emergency amendment" to the rules governing how museums can manage collections because it appeared that Fort Ticonderoga, a historic site and museum in northern New York, was on the verge of bankruptcy, said James Dawson, chairman of the board's Cultural Education Committee.



Fort Ticonderoga last summer said it wanted to sell some of its works — including a painting by Thomas Cole thought to be worth millions — to help erase about $2.5 million in debt. But state rules currently require museums to use the money from such sales only to buy other works or enhance their collections.



The emergency amendment would allow museums to sell off works to pay down debt if they can show that they have no other way to raise the money and would otherwise go bankrupt. The museums also would only be allowed to sell the works to another museum or historical society in New York.



The Board was to have taken up the amendment at a meeting Monday but Dawson — who represents northern New York on the Board of Regents — said he withdrew the proposal Thursday, partly because Fort Ticonderoga was able to raise enough money to stay out of bankruptcy court.



"Since the emergency has been removed, we don't need to do it," he said.



He couldn't say how much Fort Ticonderoga had raised, and museum officials declined to comment to The Associated Press.



Dawson said the Board of Regents will revisit the issue early next year as part of a broader review of museum rules and regulations.

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