Thursday 2 April 2015

Museums hit by cuts must maintain ethical standards

The collectors who urge source countries to empty museum collections onto the market to raise cash (and allow dealers to get their hands on the publicly-owned goodies they crave) are not following the discussion of deaccession from public collections going on over in Britain. Dealers in the US say museums should raise cash by betraying the public trust and flogging stuff off, museum bodies in the UK say that museum governing bodies have a duty to ensure collections are protected. The Museums Association (MA) has called on governing bodies to ensure that British museums uphold the highest ethical standards in the face of funding cuts.
“Funding cuts have hit the museum sector hard, with many organisations reducing staff numbers and opening hours. However, all museum governing bodies have a duty to ensure that they continue to act ethically and to safeguard collections for the public today and for the future”, said the MA's policy officer Alistair Brown. [...] Unethical disposal will be one of several issues addressed in free workshops hosted by MA this month. The events, taking place in Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds and Cardiff, will give museum professionals and stakeholders the opportunity to hear about the ongoing review of the MA's Code of Ethics and to discuss key ethical issues that require further examination. This follows an online consultation, which closed last month with more than 100 responses from individuals, museums and organisations across the sector.

Last week a UK-wide group of museum sector bodies released a joint statement saying they will not work with museums whose governing bodies sell items from their collections in contravention of the MA's Code of Ethics and the Accreditation Standard.

Last year MA released a revised disposal toolkit, which includes guidance on how museums should dispose of items in their collections in instances where the motive is financial.
I think US dealers and collectors who actually want properly to debate heritage policy, instead of steadfastly ignoring the voice from the British museum community as they have done over the past year would first of all take note of what is being said and then actually engage with it.

Nicola Sullivan, 'Museums hit by cuts must maintain ethical standards, warns MA' Museums Association 1st April 2015.

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