Welsh international football cap, Wrexham Museum

Wrexham Council to discuss collections sell-off

Patrick Steel, 10.09.2014
MA warns against contravening ethical guidelines
Wrexham County Borough Council is planning to review its museum collections to consider “the possibilities and practicalities of disposing of collections to generate income to maintain frontline services”.

According to minutes released last week of a meeting of the council’s Employment, Business and Investment Security Committee, a meeting will be held on 6 May 2015 to discuss the amount of stock currently held in storage, details of stock previously sold and income received, Wrexham Museum’s acquisition and disposal policy, and the Museums Association’s (MA) code of ethics.

The discussion has been put forward to next year as council officers advised against changing the museum’s acquisition and disposal policy while budget proposals were being consulted on. Wrexham is to begin its budget consultation for 2015-16 on 15 September, with reports suggesting it needs to make overall savings of £11m a year.

Museums Journal understands that the council is also considering proposals to move Wrexham Museum, Holt Castle, Bersham Colliery Mining Museum and Minera Lead Mines to trust status.

Sharon Heal, the MA’s acting head of policy, said: “It is good that Wrexham County Borough Council has referenced the MA’s code of ethics at this early stage in the process.

“I hope they will consult all stakeholders, including the public, if they plan to sell items from the collection and also that they will abide by the MA's advice on financially-motivated sale.

“The council should note that funders are increasingly wary of governing bodies that sell items from their collections without abiding by the ethical guidelines for the sector.”

Hugh Jones, lead member for communities, partnerships and collaboration at Wrexham Council, said: “Although the council’s Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee has decided to discuss the issue as to whether any of the museum’s collections could be sold to finance front-line services, this is a very long way from it actually happening. In fact the museum has never sold objects from the collection and has no plans to do so.

“The museum has a long-term purpose and holds collections in trust for society. The museum has in place an acquisition and disposal policy, which governs how and what the museum will collect, and how the museum may dispose of objects from the collection.

“This policy includes strict guidelines on disposal and states that the museum will not undertake disposal motivated principally by financial reasons. It also states that should an object be sold from the collection then all funds generated would be ring-fenced to be used on the museum collection only.

“The policy which was agreed by the council’s executive board can be found on the council’s website. Not adhering to this policy would mean the museum would lose its vital Accredited museum status and its membership of the MA.

"The matter will return to scrutiny committee in May 2015."
 

Comments

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Jonathan Gammond
MA Member
Access & Interpretation Officer, Wrexham County Borough Museum
02.10.2014, 21:36
This story first appeared on wrexham.com (the local online newspaper) and resulted in several calls from members of the local community concerned that a) the museum might be planning to sell off objects and b) that the Council viewed the museum collections (and logically the heritage of local people) as 'stock' to be bought and sold as required. We understand that it was the Northampton Museum sale which prompted this proposal. (Sadly we only have one item of Egyptology in our collection so the cupboard is not overflowing with goodies for the auction houses.) Since then wiser and cooler heads, not least Councillor Hugh Jones, have helped to calm the troubled waters. Meanwhile we have just put some of the 'stock' on display in two new exhibitions to mark the 80th anniversary of the Gresford Colliery Disaster and the centenary of the start of the First World War.
David Fleming
MA Member
Director, National Museums Liverpool
15.09.2014, 11:30
Sensible words from Councillor Jones. It doesn't sound like Wrexham Council plans to join the few rogue authorities which are panicking under financial stress. Selling collections is the last thing museum authorities should be considering.
Peter Gray
MA Member
11.09.2014, 06:03
"disposing of collections to generate income to maintain frontline services". Selling off assets to fund operating costs? Seriously? That's not a sustainable strategy - is there an election due? What will they sell next year "to maintain frontline services"?