A Legal Dictionary for Museum Professionals

A Legal Dictionary for Museum Professionals

Heather Hope Kuruvilla


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Presented in an easily digestible format, this go-to desktop reference guide provides explanations and clarifications on a variety of legal issues and concerns facing today’s museum professional in over 200 plain-language dictionary entries. Alphabetized and extensively cross-referenced, this text will provide a quick go-to when a general introduction to or refresher of a concept is needed on the go, including:

  • Intellectual property issues, including copyright, trademarks, and fair use
  • Corporate issues, including nonprofit status and tax-exemption
  • Governance issues, including boards of trustees and fiduciary duties

The second edition adds over 40 new dictionary entries that address emerging issues in the field such as the 2019 FASB update and direct care of collections, plus new topics such as marital property and business structures.

The text is divided into three main sections:

  • In the first, over forty common acronyms and symbols are explained, and over twenty statutes impacted museum work are listed, with common names or acronyms plus citations provided.
  • In the second, over 200 terms are concisely defined and situated specifically in relation to the day-to-day work of the museum professional, each cross-referenced to related definitions.
  • In the third, ten additional topics are developed in depth, allowing the subtleties and complications to be examined and explained in an accessible plain-language manner.

Further, the supplemental, in-focus section includes new chapters on museum deaccessioning and disposal, business structures, and worker classification and independent contractors in addition to updated chapters on topics ranging from intellectual property to business formation, tax-exempt status, and worker classification.

Written by a past museum director with legal training, this reference book is intended to be kept within arm’s reach at a desk and be the first stop for a professional whenever a question arises.


Heather Hope Kuruvilla:

Heather Hope Kuruvilla is an instructor in arts administration in the master’s programs at Kutztown University and University of Kentucky, and a past instructor in the museum professions master’s program at Seton Hall University. She teaches in the areas of ethical and legal issues and civic engagement through the arts. A museum professional with special interests in the areas of intellectual property, museum governance, civic engagement, and the ethical and thoughtful approach to deaccessioning, Kuruvilla’s past research interests include the intersection of ethics and the law in museum deaccessioning and the impact of the Visual Artists Rights Act on museums. Her seminar article on deaccessioning was awarded honorable mention in the 2011 Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation student writing competition.

Kuruvilla has professional museum experience in the areas of intellectual property management, exhibit design, and non-profit management. She received her B.A. in art history and psychology from Douglass College, Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), post-baccalaureate certificate in art history from Studio Art Centers International (Florence, Italy), M.A. with honors in museum professions from Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ), and J.D. with a certificate in intellectual property: art & museum law from DePaul University College of Law (Chicago, IL).

The recipient of multiple awards, including the CALI Award for Excellence in Cultural Property Law Seminar and the Art Law Award from the Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law, Kuruvilla is also a Leopold Schepp Foundation Scholar. While a student, she clerked for the Honorable Arlander Keys of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Honorable La Quietta Hardy-Campbell of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and upon graduation she clerked for the Honorable Melvin Gelade of the New Jersey Superior Court. A strong believer in the importance of service to the museum field, Kuruvilla has participated in panels, discussions, and workshops at regional and national museum conferences and currently serves on a task force for AASLH updating a position paper for the field.