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Thursday, November 8 • 3:40pm - 4:20pm
A Case Study of the Estate of Maurice Sendak and The Rosenbach Museum and Library of Philadelphia

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Just as the loss of a major collection of important artists or authors can be difficult for a library, the acquisition of a collection can be fraught with legal issues and even litigation. This case study broadly explores how institutions, such as libraries, archives and museums, might anticipate and deal with some of the problems that arise during the acquisition and/or loss of collections of a prominent artist or author after death. The focus of the discussion is the circumstances leading up to the litigation of the will of Maurice Sendak, the beloved children’s author of works such as Where the Wild Things Are, and the recently discovered Presto & Zesto in Limboland. Subsequent to Sendak’s death, The Rosenbach Museum and Library of Philadelphia filed a partially successful lawsuit to determine the distribution of his collection of rare books, which it claimed the executors of the will had failed to perform as the will required. At this point, the Probate Court which considered this issue has not revealed the reasoning behind its decision. However, it is possible to identify some of the factors that may have led up to this litigation and subsequent decision and consider ways that an understanding of them can be used by libraries and museums facing similar circumstances. This discussion explores what some of these factors might be in order to begin to provide practical guidance to archives, libraries, and museums.


Patrick Roughen

Assistant Professor, North Carolina Central University