Donations

A donation for the ages

Wow!  I am seriously overwhelmed by the enormous generosity displayed by a long-term Museum supporter and fellow blogger, Mag from Makeup Stash.  It all started with an innocent remark I made on Mag's Instagram page about some old MAC paint tubes.  She graciously offered to send me the ones she had since they were going to be thrown out anyway...but ended up decluttering a lot more, as you'll see.  One woman's trash is another's treasure, so I happily accepted all of the other goodies she offered up to me, completely for free!!  How awesome is that?

Donation from Makeup Stash

First up are the items that started this amazing donation: MAC paint tubes.  I was so sad that I threw mine out, as they'd be excellent for a makeup-as-literal-art exhibition (along with Chanel Les Gouaches, which I'm still kicking myself over for getting rid of).

MAC paint tubes

These eyeshadow trios from Japanese brand Kesalan Patheran were huge in the early aughts.  I'm very pleased to have these cult items join the Museum's collection.

Kesalan Patheran eye shadow trios

Ditto for these eyeshadow quads from Ed Pinaud and Lise Watier.  The Ed Pinaud is a particularly great addition to the Museum given the company's long history.

Ed Pinaude and Lise Watier

I'm in love with these palettes from Tokidoki.  In one of my very first blog posts I talked about how cute the Smashbox collab was, so when I saw Tokidoki was releasing its own line at Sephora in 2010 I was ecstatic.  The line was truly a flash in the pan, lasting only 2 years, but its short-lived nature was actually intentional.  Unfortunately during those two years I never budgeted to pick up anything from it, so I'm deliriously happy to have some items now.  These three palettes came from The Robbery set, showing Tokidoki's signature characters engaging in naughty hijinks. 

Tokidoki Robbery palettes

How adorable are these Anna Sui goodies?  The floral eyeshadow is from the fall 2010 Kaleidoscope of Color collection, while the heart-shaped eyeshadow is from summer 2014.

Anna Sui makeup

Anna Sui makeup

Some other recent treasures Mag bestowed upon the Museum include Shu Uemura's Fuchsia Fusion palette (2013), YSL Flower Crush palette (2014) and Etude House's Berry Delicious palette (2016). 

Shu Uemura Fuchsia Fusion

YSL Flower Crush

Etude House Berry Delicious

But honestly, my favorite part of this donation (or any donation, really) was this incredibly sweet handwritten note.  I've received others and they mean so much.

Note

I know I get pretty down about makeup companies and museums not paying any attention to this little blog of mine, and it's things like this that help keep me going.  In addition to all of the nice comments and emails I get, donations are a way of people showing me that they think the Museum is a worthwhile project.

I'm positively overjoyed at all of these wonderful additions to the collection!  Do you have any favorites?  Big huge thanks again to Mag, I still can't believe her generosity!

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MM Musings, vol 25: unsolicited donations

Makeup Museum (MM) Musings is a series that examines a broad range of museum topics as they relate to the collecting of cosmetics, along with my vision for a "real", physical Makeup Museum. These posts help me think through how I'd run things if the Museum was an actual organization, as well as examine the ways it's currently functioning. I also hope that these posts make everyone see that the idea of a museum devoted to cosmetics isn't so crazy after all - it can be done!

https://www.someecards.com/I came across this article detailing an example of an unsolicited museum donation, and it got me thinking about how this would apply to the Makeup Museum. Let's explore the pros and cons of such donations for a cosmetics museum, shall we? 

In the 9 years I've been running the Museum, it has received a handful of amazing, completely unsolicited donations, two of which I haven't even posted about because they were so huge and I'm still in the process of adding them to the inventory and photographing everything.  Some very kind people bestowed hard to find or vintage items in great condition simply because they were going to throw them out, but instead they took the time to do a little research and discovered the Museum might be a good place for these items instead of the trash.  I must say I've had good luck so far with unsolicited donations - no one has sent me beauty items that are in such poor condition that they really do belong in the garbage.  (No one has even requested that I reimburse them for postage, which blows my mind!  I've offered, but they all turned me down.)  Even though I usually have no idea what I'm getting when people offer to send me things - very few take photos and just offer a brief description - I have no problem digging through the items once they arrive and throwing them out if they really are trash.  And as I'm always trying to grow the Museum's collection, right now I have a favorable opinion of such donations.  It's not often you can get quality items for free, so these unsolicited donations essentially mean collection growth without spending a dime of my own money.  Indeed, several prominent museums have had help in growing their collections via unsolicited donations as well. As the director of the institutional history division at the Smithsonian remarked in this article, "We built our collection with amateur collectors." 

Another pro of an unsolicited donation is that even if I can't use it for the collection, it at least provides research and/or blog post fodder.  I like to think of donations as opportunities for other aspects of museum expansion, as sometimes these items can lead me to look into vintage brands or trends I hadn't explored before, or even exhibition concepts.  For example, the Stila memorabilia donations I received sparked the idea of doing a whole exhibition on Stila girl illustrations.  (Still working on it, obviously!)

Finally, for established organizations unsolicited donations can also lead to good press and increased visitor engagement.  This article in Nonprofit Quarterly discusses an unsolicited donation that a museum could have used as PR opportunity and a way to interact with more visitors (although I do understand why the museum didn't follow through with it).  While right now the Makeup Museum doesn't have any real PR to speak of,  if it was an actual museum I'd absolutely pass along unsolicited donations to my PR team and education/engagement staff and see if they could do anything with them.

Now for the not-so-good aspects of unsolicited donations.  Most museums have policies in place clearly stating that they cannot accept unsolicited donations that are left at the doorstep or sent through the mail, and for several good reasons.  First, and probably most important, unsolicited donations can present a host of legal problems.  State laws regarding abandoned property vary, so museums have to determine whether they can legally own donations that were left or sent anonymously. Not only that, while the donation is monetarily free, the donor may put burdensome conditions in place, such as having the item on display at all times.  This makes the legal aspects of the deed of gift more complicated, and the conditions themselves may be more trouble than the donation is worth.  Plus, some pieces have questionable provenance, especially those where the donor refuses to say how they acquired the item or even give their name - no museum wants stolen or fake works in their collections because, again, this could lead to an epic litigation nightmare.

Second, unsolicited donations require an incredible amount of experience in handling extremely delicate situations.  If a donor is turned down, the result may be a permanently damaged relationship that could affect other donations.  Not only does museum staff want to avoid hurt feelings, as donors can be very attached to an object and may take the rejection personally, but the donor may have something else of value that they are now not willing to part with.  As this Wall Street Journal article explains, "Responding to inquiries for donations requires considerable tact, if for no other reason than a collector offering one unwanted object may have one or more others in which the museum would be far more interested...museum officials attempt to learn something about the person making the offer, because they don't want to close the door on a relationship that might yield other benefits."    

Third, unsolicited donations can be logistically difficult for a small museum that doesn't necessarily have the resources to sift through everything that gets left outside their door or in their mail.  Even if the item proves worthy of the museum's collection, the accessioning process takes a considerable amount of time.  Additionally, the museum may not have the storage space or ability to conserve the items. While mostly applauding the unsolicited donation of goldfish to a museum's pond (literally someone just smuggled a bunch of fish onto museum property and dumped them into the pond without consulting any staff), the Nonprofit Quarterly article notes that the fish ended up dead since the pond wasn't the right environment for them.  If a museum can't properly care for a donation for whatever reason, it actually does more harm than good.

Finally, the museum's focus is also a reason that unsolicited donations are tricky to handle.  In the case of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, donated animal carcasses to be taxidermied or otherwise preserved by the museum present a safety hazard if the critters succumbed to rabies or carried dangerous parasites.  On a less deadly side, I'd imagine a fashion museum would have to take special care in ensuring the donated garments are free of moths and other insects, lest they spread to the rest of the museum's collection and destroy it. 

In light of all these challenges, many museums have very clear policies in place that help protect them against the potential pitfalls that unsolicited donations present.  As for the Makeup Museum, right now I don't think I really need an official policy, since 1. it's not like I'm getting bombarded with donations so I can handle the amount; 2.  legally I can't get into trouble for accepting items or throwing them out since the Museum isn't an actual institution - it's really a situation of one person gifting items to another.  (At least, I don't think I can be sued or anything like that...any lawyers want to weigh in?)

However, should the Makeup Museum ever become a real organization, it would investigate unsolicited donations on a case-by-case basis and maintain a public policy that all staff is well-versed in.  I'd definitely require a form of some kind to be filled out online and have hard copies available in the case of in-person drop-offs.  I'd also follow the standard guideline that most museums have posted - I might even use this exact language from the Chicago History Museum and the International Spy Museum cobbled together, since it's perfect (why reinvent the wheel?):  "The Museum does not accept donations through the mail or in person unless prior arrangements have been made with the appropriate curatorial or collection staff member. All unsolicited donations sent via the mail will be returned to sender.  The Museum reserves the right to dispose of unsolicited items."  Storage space shouldn't be that much of an issue since makeup items are generally small.  Currently I'm running out of room, but that's only because I'm trying to keep the collection in my home - if I had a large dedicated space, it wouldn't pose too much of a problem (unless the donation was something like salon furniture or oversize props...still, if Paul & Joe wanted to donate those giant cat lipsticks they used for their events, I'd take them in a heartbeat, lack of space be damned).  As for health hazards, I can see that used makeup is kind of gross, but most likely it doesn't pose a threat as the items can be somewhat sanitized and no one would actually be using them - they're just being displayed.  The only things you'd have to be really careful with are hair-related items, i.e., I'd think twice about accepting a used vintage hairbrush or other accessories, as an outbreak of lice is not desirable.

There are many potential issues with unsolicited donations, but I believe that if a museum sticks to their policy and ensures their staff understands it, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.  As Jody Ochoa, Director of the Idaho State Historical Museum emphasizes, "If we don't know anything about an item, how can we take it? Having a good solid policy is really key, and it protects everyone, including the volunteers."  My current job also forces me to handle sensitive situations on occasion, so I think I'd be equipped to gently and tactfully negotiate or turn down a donation - hopefully there wouldn't be any burning of bridges with donors for me.

What do you think?


MM Mailbag: Another Stila surprise!

Vintage Stila memorabilia

You might remember how overjoyed I was in late 2013 when a mysterious person emailed me and asked to bestow a mighty lot of Stila memorabilia.  Well, back in the spring a different mystery Stila aficionado contacted me and asked if I wanted her vintage Stila ephemera.  As with the previous donor, she refused to accept payment, even for postage, and sent me an enormous package chock full of lovely Stila cards and other goodies.  See, Stila fans are the best!!

Now that I'm done gushing about the extremely generous people who graciously donated these items, let's take an in-depth look.

Stila postcards, ca. late 1990s

Stila postcards, ca. late 1990s

Stila postcards, late 1990s/early 00s

Stila postcards, late 1990s/early 00s

Stila postcards, fall 2001 and 2002

Stila pamphlets

Stila 2001 holiday look book

Stila 2001 holiday look book

Even the outer envelope for this has an adorable illustration:

Stila 2001 holiday lookbook envelope

How adorable is this mini 3-ring binder?!

Stila mini binder

Stila mini binder

I think is from around 2003, since the "Look of the Month" palettes had some of the same illustrations and were released at Nordstrom in January 2004.  For example, the little lady below was used in the April palette.

Stila mini binder

The donor also included some pretty cool Anna Sui postcards. 

Anna Sui postcards

Anna Sui postcard

So wasn't that nice?!  Whoever sent this my way, thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my Stila-loving heart!!  I'm still in awe from the generosity.

Which is your favorite from this glorious batch of rare Stila items?  I love it all, of course, but I think I'm partial to the white postcards, which look to be very early in Stila's history...but the postcard with the girl catching pairs of rouged lips in a butterfly net is pretty spectacular too.

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MM Mailbag: a Stila surprise

Talk about a RAOK (random act of kindness)!  Last week a very mysterious person emailed me, saying that she had a bunch of vintage Stila memorabilia, and asked if I would like any of it.  She had no room for it anymore but hated the thought of throwing it away.  I eagerly responded that I was interested and inquired about pricing.  Not only did this marvelous mystery person say that she would give it all to me for free, she even refused reimbursement for shipping!  I was, and still am, totally stunned by this act of generosity.  And the quality and quantity of the goodies she bestowed upon the museum left me flabbergasted as well. 

Without further ado, I introduce the Mystery Stila Lady collection!  Whoever you are, I cannot thank you enough!!

Rock the Vote postcard - on the back it had instructions for voting. 

Stila-rock-the-vote-postcard

Pamphlet (from 1999!):

Stila-pamphlet

Stila-pamplet-1st-page

Stila-pamphlet-last-page

This was one of my favorites - a postcard set from the 2001 fall collection.

Stila-bon-voyage

Stila-2001-bon-voyage

Stila-road-to-rio-postcard

Stila-passage-to-paris-card

Stila-touchdown-in-tokyo-postcard

Stila-cruise-to-cairo-postcard

Then there were the workbooks/product guides - I'm assuming these were for Stila employees.

Stila-color-voyage-2001

Stila-color-voyage-back

Stila-toile-2002

Stila-tea-time-2002

Stila-sport-2002

Stila-holiday-2003-workbook-cover

Stila-holiday-workbook-2003

Stila-holiday-2003-workbook-blue

You may recognize this Stila girl - she also appeared on the 2013 holiday palettes, albeit in a different outfit.

Stila-holiday-2003-workbook-coming-soon

Stila-spring-2004-workbook

Stila-fall-2004-workbook

Stila-holiday-2004-workbook

Stila-spring-2005

Some other great items in the bounty included a cute paper box and silver bag:

Stila-paper-box

Stila-paper-box-2

Stila-silver-bag

I loved everything, obviously, but my favorite item was this 2003 calendar.  It's interesting to see how it foreshadows both the 2004 Nordstrom calendar palette collection and the more recent travel palette series.

Stila-2003-calendar

Stila-2003-calendar-page

Stila-2003-calendar-january

Stila-2003-calendar-february

Stila-2003-calendar-March

Stila-2003-calendar-April

Stila-2003-calendar-May

Stila-2003-calendar-July

Stila-2003-calendar-August

Stila-2003-calendar-sept.

Stila-2003-calendar-october

Stila-2003-calendar-November

Stila-2003-calendar-december

You may have been wondering where the month of June was.  I had to save the best for last.  Behold, a Stila mermaid!

Stila-2003-calendar-June

My mermaid obsession knows no bounds, so I got heart palpitations when I saw this!  Plus, it may be proof that I'm not completely senile in remembering a long-lost Stila paint can that was created in honor of their counters opening in Copenhagen, which I discussed in my post on mermaids in cosmetics ads and packaging.  I said that I could have sworn the mermaid was blonde, and here she is!  I'm almost positive now that paint can existed and this was the same mermaid used.

Which of these images from the very generous Mystery Stila Lady collection is your favorite?  I still can't believe she donated all of this!!  I'm both a collector and Stila fanatic, so naturally this is awesome, but what's more is that the Stila girls were what got me collecting makeup in the first place so having these really means a lot.

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