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How museums acquire art

Karen Kienzle works at Santa Clara's on-campus museum, the de Saisset. Its intimate gallery spaces showcase rotating exhibits as well as the permanent collection, which contains an impressive library of California history pieces, modernist prints, and photography.

Like every museum, SCU’s de Saisset carefully weighs every acquisition decision. In recent years, with Kienzle’s guidance, students have assisted in this process.

For a number of recent purchases, students in the art and art history department researched possible pieces and collections, and presented their reasoning and recommendations to the museum. Kienzle worked with assistant art history professor Kate Morris and associate art history professor Andrea Pappas to teach students how to evaluate art pieces with the collection in mind.

The de Saisset has an added challenge in that it traditionally doesn't have an acquisitions fund; students learn about grants and funding as well. “It’s such a positive process,” Kienzle says. “The students participate in this monumental decision. And in the end, we’ve been surprised and delighted by what’s come to the museum because of student effort.”

Karen Kienzle, Assistant Director for Exhibitions, Education, and Community Outreach

de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University

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