Charter a Museum or Historical Society

A museum or historical society with collections that wishes to organize as a nonprofit private education corporation must do so by petitioning the Board of Regents for the issuance of a charter. A charter is granted by the Board of Regents as an instrument of incorporation to a museums and historical societies with collections that satisfy Regents standards of organizational and educational quality. These standards are consistent with professionally accepted principles and practices as adopted by the American Alliance of Museums and the American Association for State and Local History. To achieve them usually takes a period of development. For that reason chartering is a two-step process, from provisional to absolute charter. Museums and historical societies with collections are organized by people who have responsibility for collections of artistic, scientific and historical objects, or the desire to acquire such collections, and the potential or actual resources to preserve them. Since the collections are the principal assets of museums and historical societies with collections, the primary concern of any group organizing museums and historical societies with collections is to safeguard the existing collections and those to be acquired.

Since the primary obligation of museums and historical societies with collections is to assemble, preserve and interpret its collections, the housing of the collection is of the utmost importance. The organizing committee must determine if it has an adequate facility or the resources to acquire the space necessary to assemble, catalog, preserve and exhibit its collections. There must be room not only for exhibitions, but environmentally sound and secure space to store that portion of the collections not on exhibit. 

After museums or historical societies with collections have organized, it may wish to incorporate. Most important of the many advantages of incorporation is that museums and historical societies with collections becomes a legal entity. Title to the organization's collections is held in the name of the organization. It is thus protected from falling into the hands of the individual trustees in the event the museum or historical society with collections should dissolve.

Another important advantage of incorporation is that it makes museums and historical societies with collections eligible to apply to the United States Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit, tax exempt education corporation under Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This is important to an organization, because money raised from admission charges or gifts would otherwise be considered taxable income. The exemption also encourages financial contributions and donations to the collections since donors may deduct the donation from their personal income tax.

Finally, incorporation by the Board of Regents gives museums and historical societies with collections the prestige and recognition of being a member of The University of the State of New York. 

8 NYCRR 3.27 defines the regulations set for organizations that petition the NY Board of Regents for both the provisional and the absolute charter. 

Chartering Toolkit

  • Provisional Charter

    A museum or historical society with collections that has organized, adopted a statement of purpose, including a collections management policy, constitution and by-laws, is ready to incorporate by petitioning the Board of Regents for the issuance of a provisional charter. 

    The actual or potential size and financial resources of a museum should be sufficient to enable it to assemble, preserve and interpret the collection for which it is responsible. 

    The name of the organization must be consistent with and clearly indicative of its purposes. If the organization has a local focus, its title must not indicate a program of statewide or national scope. If it is primarily a science, art or history museum, its title must not imply purposes outside its focus. In addition, the name of the organization shall not be identical with or so similar to the name of any existing institution as to cause confusion between the proposed organization and any other institution incorporated under the laws of New York State.

    Please be aware that the term "museum" is a protected term and should only be used when authorized by the Board of Regents or the Commissioner of Education (Education Law §216). Also "no museum or historical society with collections shall use the word "library" and no historical society with collections shall use the word "museum" in connection with its operations unless authority to operate a library or museum is conferred by the charter of the museum or society and the library or museum operation meets the requirements of the Rules of the Board of Regents and the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education with respect to the operation and registration of a library or museum; provided that such prohibition with respect to the operation of a library shall not apply to collections of books and/or other materials maintained for reference use and not for public circulation (8 NYCRR 3.27(f)(3))."

    Mail to the State Education Department, Office of Counsel, 89 Washington Ave., Room 148 EB, Albany, NY 12234

    1. Original petition and 2 copies of the petition
    2. Fee of $100 made payable to the New York State Education Department

     

    To help with the review process, the New York State Museum Chartering Office requires all provisional charter applicants to fill out a corresponding questionnaire. The questionnaire with supporting documentation can either be mailed with the corresponding petition to New York State Education Office of Counsel, or separately to the Chartering Office by mail or email. PRO Questionnaire (PDF)

    Sample policies

  • Absolute Charter

    At the end of the term for which a provisional charter is granted, a museum or historical society with collections may apply for an absolute charter. The requirements for this instrument of incorporation involve successful completion of a review process termed registration. This is the mechanism by which the Regents determine if the museum or historical society with collections is mature and stable. To be eligible for registration, an organization's progress is measured according to standards established by § 3.27 of the Rules of the Regents. The evaluation is based on the following criteria: 

    • Personnel 
    • Finances 
    • Facilities 
    • Collections 
    • Exhibitions 
    • Programs 

     

    Any organization which applies for an absolute charter and it has been determined that it does not meet qualifications will automatically be recommended for an extension of its provisional charter. To better help you determine if your organization qualifies for an absolute charter, please review the Standard and Best Practice (PDF)for an absolute charter

    To help with the review process, the New York State Museum Chartering Office requires all absolute charter applicants to fill out a corresponding questionnaire. The questionnaire with supporting documentation can either be mailed with the corresponding petition to New York State Education Office of Counsel, or separately to the Chartering Office by mail or email.

    Once it is determined that an organization meets the qualifications for an absolute charter, the Chartering Office will contact the organization to schedule a required site visit.

    This process can take at least 4 months to complete. In order to make sure that at no time will the organization operate under an expired charter, please submit all documents before its expiration date.

    1. original petition and 2 copies of the petition
    2. fee of $60 made payable to the New York State Education Department

    Mail to the New York State Education Department, Office of Counsel, 89 Washington Ave., Room 148 EB, Albany, NY 12234

  • Amend

    A museum or historical society with collections may petition to amend its provisional or absolute charter. This is usually done when a museum or historical society with collections wants to change its 1) corporate name, 2) its corporate purposes, 3) increase the number of trustees, or 4) to alter in any other way the provisions of the provisional or absolute charter. 

    Mail to the State Education Department, Office of Counsel, 89 Washington Ave., Room 148 EB, Albany, NY 12234

    1. original petition and 2 copies of the petition
    2. fee of $60 made payable to the New York State Education Department
  • Extend

    A museum or historical society with collections may also apply for an extension of its provisional charter. The trustees of many organizations petition the Board of Regents for an extension of the provisional charter in order to gain the time to improve its chances of registration. A museum or historical society with collections is eligible for additional extensions of its provisional charter as long as the institution is active and is making progress. The legal status of the organization as an education corporation is the same whether its charter is provisional or absolute.

    The following are reasons why an organization will apply for an extension: 

    1) The organization's financial support is not adequate for its stated purposes;

    2) The collections management procedures of the organization do not meet professional standards; 

    3) The organization lacks a qualified professional staff; 

    4) The organization's educational programs are not significant;

    5) The physical facilities of the organization are not adequate for its stated purposes.

    Mail to the State Education Department, Office of Counsel, 89 Washington Ave., Room 148 EB, Albany, NY 12234

    1. original petition and 2 copies of the petition
    2. fee of $60 made payable to the New York State Education Department

     

    This process can take about 4 months to complete. In order to make sure that at no time will the organization operate under an expired charter, please submit all documents before its expiration date.

  • Merger/ Consolidation of organizations

    A merger occurs when two or more existing corporations [for ex. (A) and (B)] combine, with the corporate existence of one of the constituent corporations [for ex. (A)] continuing as the surviving corporation, and the corporate existence of (B) terminates

    A consolidation occurs when two or more existing corporations [for ex. (A) and (B)] are combined into a newly created corporation (C) which begins its corporate existence and the corporate existence of each constituent corporation (A) and (B) terminates.

    Mail to the State Education Department, Office of Counsel, 89 Washington Ave., Room 148 EB, Albany, NY 12234

    1. original merger or consolidation petition and 2 copies of the petition
    2. fee of $100 made payable to the New York State Education Department
  • Dissolve

    Whenever the trustees of any such corporation shall determine, upon three-fourths vote to dissolve the corporation, they may petition the Regents to issue an order of dissolution. If it appears to the satisfaction of the Regents that there is no sufficient reason for the continuance of the corporation, that all taxes chargeable to the corporation have been paid, and, if the corporation has stock provisions, that the outstanding stock has been surrendered for cancellation, the regents shall thereupon have power to dissolve the corporation.

    Once an corporation has been dissolved by the Regents, application shall be made to the Supreme Court for an order directing the disposition of any assets which the former corporation may have following dissolution.

    Mail to the State Education Department, Office of Counsel, 89 Washington Ave., Room 148 EB, Albany, NY 12234

    1. original petition and 2 copies of the petition
    2. fee of $60 made payable to the New York State Education Department

Contact Chartering

Chartering Program
New York State Education Department
C/o Sarah Jastremski
Room 10A33, Cultural Education Center
Albany NY 12230
Phone: (518) 486-3843
charters@nysed.gov