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Knowing “the price of everything and the value of nothing”: accounting for heritage assets

Keith Hooper (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Kate Kearins (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Ruth Green (University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 1 June 2005

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the conceptual arguments surrounding accounting for heritage assets and the resistance by some New Zealand museums to a mandatory valuing of their holdings.

Design/methodology/approach

Evidence was derived from museum annual reports, interviews and personal communications with representatives of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (ICANZ) and a range of New Zealand museums.

Findings

ICANZ's requirement that heritage assets be accounted for in a manner similar to other assets is shown as deriving from a managerialist rationality which, in espousing sector neutrality, assumes an unproblematic stance to the particular nature and circumstances of museums and their holdings. Resisting the imposition of the standard, New Zealand's regional museums evince an identity tied more strongly to notions of aesthetic, cultural and social value implicit in curatorship, than to a concern with the economic value of their holdings. Museum managers and accountants prefer to direct their attention to what they see as more vitally important tasks related to the conservation, preservation and maintenance of heritage assets, rather than to divert scarce funds to what they see as an academic exercise in accounting.

Originality/value

The paper points to some of the difficulties inherent in the application of a one‐size‐fits‐all application of an accounting standard to entities and assets differentiated in their purpose and essence.

Keywords

Citation

Hooper, K., Kearins, K. and Green, R. (2005), "Knowing “the price of everything and the value of nothing”: accounting for heritage assets", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 410-433. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513570510600765

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited