Disposal case study: Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life - Museums Association

Disposal case study: Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life

Nick Booth and Pippa Griffith on a small museum rationalisation project
Disposal Ethics
Nick Booth and Pippa Griffith
Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life is planning for a capital redevelopment, which is expected to reduce the amount of space used for display in order to create new spaces to help generate income such as a learning centre and cafe.
Existing storage areas are full, so a review of the collection is needed to undertake a rationalisation of the collection. The outcomes of this process include freeing up resources to better care for and utilise other parts of the collection, and the creation or optimising of space for the improved care and continued acquisition of collections.
This process will begin with looking at duplicate items in store, as well as items that don’t fit with the museum’s collections development policy.
Tiverton recently disposed of two model ships – the SS Great Western and the SS Sirius – to Brunel’s SS Great Britain in Bristol.
Although these items were beautifully made by a local person within the past 30 years, they didn’t match the museum’s collecting policy of collecting, preserving and displaying items connected to the history of Mid Devon.
The models were kept in the main museum store and were not seen by visitors. It was agreed that they were unlikely to be used in future displays, and that they would be better used elsewhere.
As well as advertising through the Museums Association’s Find an Object scheme, Tiverton contacted the SS Great Britain directly to see if they could use the models. It also liaised with the maker-donor’s family who were happy for the models to transfer to an alternative museum home.
The SS Great Britain Trust has recently signed a lease on the Albion Dockyard next door to its Bristol site, and ship repair has started again there for the first time in many years. Future projects are likely to include interpretation telling the story of ships and ship building – and the ship’s models fit this bill exactly.
Prior to this transfer, the Bristol museum did not have a model of the SS Great Western and is now looking for interesting ways it can make available to the public. Having a model of the SS Sirius (the first steamer to cross the Atlantic and the ship the SS Great Western raced against) will help the museum tell new stories.

Pippa Griffith is the director of Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life and Nick Booth is the head of collections at SS Great Britain

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