Northampton loses £240,000 HLF bid after sale of Sekhemka

Geraldine Kendall, 12.11.2014
Council facing the consequences of its actions, says MA director
Northampton Borough Council is “having to face the consequences of its actions” after missing out on a £240,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant following its sale of the ancient Egyptian statue Sekhemka, according to the Museums Association’s (MA) director Sharon Heal.

The council’s museum service had submitted an application to the HLF’s Collecting Cultures programme to fund a display of 19th- to 21st-century shoes at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

It was told by the HLF earlier this month that it was ineligible to apply for the grant after being stripped of Accreditation by Arts Council England as a result of the sale, which was ruled to be in contravention of both the Accreditation standard and the MA’s code of ethics.

Heal said: "The sale of the Sekhemka statue by Northampton council was a breach of public trust. The council was warned that the unethical sale would deter other funders and it is now having to face the consequences of its actions.

“Other governing bodies that are considering selling from their collections should take note of what has happened in this case; it might sound like a tempting solution to funding problems but the consequences of losing the trust of funders and the public are stark."

According to the HLF, the museum service can continue to apply to its other funding streams as long as they do not carry an Accreditation requirement.

A spokesman from Northampton said: “This application was submitted before the sale of Sekhemka and before we resigned our membership of the Museums Association.

"Last month we heard that we would not be receiving money from the HLF for the project. The feedback we received at the time was that our bid was too much for the size of the project and we understand also that the fund was oversubscribed.

“On 4 November we heard from the HLF that the reason our application was turned down was because we were ineligible because of our Accreditation status. This was the first we had heard of this and the HLF has apologised for not making this clear earlier.”

As well as losing its Accreditation, the council has been barred from MA membership for at least five years.

The MA is currently organising a summit of grant-giving bodies to discuss what further sanctions could be taken against museum authorities that contravene the code of ethics requirements on disposal.

Comments

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Anonymous
MA Member
20.11.2014, 10:11
What impact is this having on staff at the museum? Will there be people who are losing their jobs as a result?
Anonymous
MA Member
16.11.2014, 20:48
Northampton’s case is really a museum sector equivalent of Chad Evans. Dr Johnson summarises the moral position most eloquently “ … But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.”