Thursday, 13 September 2012

Deaccession Ruckus in Northampton

We are all aware of the suggestions made by dealers and collectors that museums should sell "surplus" items to collectors, releasing items with known collecting histories onto the market to supplement those for which the collecting histories are non-existant through carelessness and dodgy origins. This is a common suggestion, so it is interesting to see the fuss that results when a museum actually does this. Northampton Museums discovered that a (rather ugly) ancient Egyptian limestone statue of a bloke called  Sekhemka they have in their reserve collection, an old donation, is worth an estimated £2 million. They then decided that it is "surplus" to their needs, and the decision has been taken to flog it off. The problem is that the Museum’s Association’s Code of ethics (and the borough council’s own acquisition and disposal policy) require other steps to be taken, such as it being offered to other museums interested in acquiring it through gift, loan or exchange. There has been public outrage over these plans. As one commentator notes: “The proposed sale is not in line with these policies; indeed it looks like the first step in killing off Northampton’s museums and art gallery" while others have called it a "breach of trust" put in the museum by its donors down the years.
Councillor David Mackintosh, leader of the borough council, said there would be a public consultation on where the money from the sale of the statue should be spent.
There are a series of comments under the original article ('Sale of £2 million Egyptian statue is agreed', Northampton Chronicle  Wednesday 12 September 2012) with which collectors advocating all museums adopt (for the benefit of collectors) such moves should acquaint themselves. Their contributions to the discussion so far are conspicuously absent. Let's see "Wgsant" and his militant museum-hating pals from over the water lecturing the people of Northampton UK that they have no business holding onto a portable antiquity that would be "better off" in a US private collection. 

Vignette:  Sekhemka

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