Book Reviews

RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage reviews books, reports, new periodicals, databases, websites, blogs, and other electronic resources, as well as exhibition, book, and auction catalogs pertaining directly and indirectly to the fields of rare book librarianship, manuscripts curatorship, archives management, and special collections administration. Publishers, librarians, and archivists are asked to send appropriate publications for review or notice to the Reviews Editor.

Due to space limitations, it may not be possible for all books received to be reviewed in RBM. Books or publication announcements should be sent to the Reviews Editor: Amy Cooper Cary, Raynor Memorial Library, Marquette University, 1415 W. Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233-2221, e-mail: amy.cary@marquette.edu, (414) 288-5901.

Freda Matassa. Valuing Your Collection. London: Facet Publishing, 2017. 224p. Softcover, £59.95 (ISBN 978-1-78330-187-4).

Following her previous publications, Museum Collections Management and Organizing Exhibitions, Matassa here presents a straightforward guide to approaching the often tricky but necessary valuation of various materials housed in museums, libraries, and archives. As a past head of collections management at the Tate Galleries and the current director of the art consultancy firm Matassa Toffolo, Matassa began this work in 2011 at the request of the European Commission’s Workplan for Culture. The request followed her report (coauthored with Dr. Cornelia Dümke) entitled Valuation of Works of Art for Lending and Borrowing Purposes, which exposed high insurance costs as a major hurdle to collection loans and uncovered a lack of best practices for training curators that would enable them to value their collections. This work begins solving the problem of establishing value in both public and private institutions, through an example-filled exploration of issues and possible solutions.

Written chiefly through the perspective of a curator working in a British fine art museum, Matassa begins with a general discussion of the importance of valuation before presenting chapters that address significant topics such as the difficulties of properly valuing material; important laws and ethical considerations; general insurance suggestions; possible alternatives to traditional full coverage insurance; situations that might require a value and the importance of a valuation policy; possible approaches to valuing an entire collection; and considerations for valuing a given object. Following this are numerous case studies that explore relevant frameworks for assigning values to specific collection types, providing commentary from experts as well as a sample valuation form for each type. There are also three appendices covering applicable U.K. government programs, a brief overview of the previously mentioned report Valuation of Works of Art for Lending and Borrowing Purposes, a detailed glossary of terms, and a bibliography and index.

Among the strongest aspects of the work are the significant contributions from experts in related fields. While Matassa takes sole credit as author, she did a superb job soliciting advice to make this book applicable for more than just fine art curators. In addition to the case studies, short summaries of valuation policies from influential British and Scottish foundations, libraries, museums, trusts, and archives are sprinkled throughout the text, somewhat at random, to give readers an idea how Matassa’s general suggestions can be transformed into actual practice by professionals in affiliated fields. The library and archives summaries are especially valuable, as there appears to be no U.S. equivalent of this work written for special collections professionals, only helpful guides designed for new collectors, such as RBMS’s Your Old Books, or online suggestions for navigating the usual databases. Some of this work’s more specific details will not be applicable to American audiences, especially the chapter detailing the various U.K. laws that can impact or shape valuation practices, but the overall sentiment and approach will be helpful for those learning valuation or managing those who do.

If you want easy answers or shortcuts for generating monetary values of items within your collection, this is not the book for you; but it would be ideal for one struggling to know where to start in a special collections environment with a variety of holdings that may include objects in addition to the expected rare books and archives.—Colleen Barrett, Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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