The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is selling some of the stored furniture in its collection. It's the first deaccession of items in the museum's history.
You've probably never seen the items for sale. The furniture was generously donated many decades ago, but was not the type of thing a museum would put on display.
"A large portion [of the pieces] are actually reproductions. Museums don't typically show reproductions. A museum will show an original piece of work," said Catherine Shteynberg, curator of the arts and culture collection at the museum. "None of the pieces that are up for auction were shown at the museum or they were briefly part of an exhibit in the 1950s and then put in storage."
Today, the museum adheres to strict standards for what kind of donated items it accepts. The standards were not the same when it came into possession of the furniture that is being auctioned now through February 14. The items were accepted from the estates of generous donors and then confined to storage for decades. The auction will allow the objects to find new life in someone's home.
"Even though they are reproductions, most of the items are fine pieces of furniture," said Shteynberg.
The auction items will be sold through February 14, 2018, via the iGavel auction house and Case Antiques of Knoxville. The items are in storage and only able to be viewed online.
The auction includes items ranging from beds, pianos, tables, to an antique wheelchair.
Museum director Jeff Chapman said he does not expect the auction to generate a substantial amount of money. In fact, the leadership at the museum worked to make sure profit was not a factor in deciding which pieces would be auctioned.
"I think the most important thing is this was not a spur of the moment, knee-jerk reaction to free up storage space or generate some funding for the museum," said Chapman. "This went through a very careful process with an assessment of the objects' quality, how they fit into our mission, and how they would fit into use by the museum."
After being reviewed by multiple committees and receiving final approval from the university, Chapman said he feels like the decision on what to sell was "good, solid, and justifiable."
Another important aspect of the auction is any money generated will only be used to add items that can actually be displayed by the museum.
"Any proceeds from the auction will only be used to acquire new objects for the museum's collection," said Shteynberg. "This is not something where the money will be used to pay bills, salaries, or maintain items already in the collection. This is money that will go solely to acquire new pieces."