Is Your Work Museum Quality? An open letter from the Joe Martin Foundation

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Well-Known Member
Apr 12, 2008
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Since the Martin Foundation, board of directors meets each year at NAMES expo they ask if we would post this on the assorted forums for them.
Is Your Work Museum Quality?
If you have built model engineering projects that are worthy of display at shows like the NAMES Expo, you should take a moment to think about the plans you have made for your life’s work. Will it be cared for, displayed and appreciated long after you are gone, or will it be sold off by the next or successive generations of relatives who may see it only as a potential few dollars on eBay? Will it be kept as a collection documenting your work or will the individual items be scattered to the winds?
The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship not only maintains an on-line museum at featuring the work of the world’s best miniature metalworkers, it now also hosts a world-renowned 16,000 square foot walk-in museum in Carlsbad, California. For the past 19 years the foundation has also rewarded craftsmanship with a cash “Craftsman of the Year” award.
Do you have a plan?
We all know craftsmen who have created one or more really fine pieces of work. They may have talked about wanting to leave it to a museum, but never put that wish in writing. Some have even ignored the inevitable and said, “That’ll be my kids’ problem.” Upon their passing, their work was sold at an estate sale or on eBay by relatives or probate lawyers who simply didn’t understand the value of it. For example, we have on display two beautiful, custom designed steam engines that were donated by a collector. He had found them in a box that was going to a thrift store after an estate sale was over. Nobody had even paid the $5 price tag on them, as they just didn’t understand what they were. We now proudly display them in our museum, but in the “builder” section of the display tag it says “Unknown.”
A success story
Rudy Kouhoupt was a famous and well-liked craftsman whose work was well documented in magazines for over three decades when he died a few years ago. Fortunately, he had discussed his wishes with his niece, and she honored them by donating his life’s work to the Joe Martin Foundation. Rudy Kouhoupt’s work became one of the cornerstone exhibits in our new museum when it opened in 2006, and now all his well-known prototypes are now on display and will remain so for future generations to study and appreciate. Rudy’s life story continues to inspire people daily in our museum.
What will your story be?
The Joe Martin Foundation offers a chance for your work to live on and be cared for and appreciated by future generations of craftsmen, always with your name and story to go with it. We suggest you consider making arrangements to donate one or several pieces to the Foundation’s museum where it will live on in your name. Don’t think in terms of donating a piece none of your relatives would want. Think in terms of donating the piece that represents your very best work—the piece or pieces you want to be remembered by.
Joe Martin stressed, “I am not a collector. I have never considered the fine examples in our museum to be my own property. They belong to the foundation, and the foundation exists for you, the craftsmen of the world.”
Several million dollars have been invested in the museum facility to date to assure that donated items are cared for and displayed in a manner befitting their high quality. The facility includes a full, working machine shop with and experienced tool and die maker on staff to oversee maintenance of the items. The Joe Martin Foundation qualifies for section 501(c)(3) status under US Tax Code, meaning donations are fully tax deductible for you if donated during your lifetime. You also get the satisfaction of being able to tell friends your work is good enough to be on display in a museum.
Contact museum curator Craig Libuse at [email protected] or call (760) 727-9492 to find out if your work qualifies for display and how to go about arranging a donation. The museum’s web site at hosts a page that explains your options in more detail. A simple codicil you can add to your will or trust is also included as an example.
Write your own story, and preserve your years of fine work for future generations.

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