Consultation into sale of statue provokes criticism - Museums Association

Consultation into sale of statue provokes criticism

Northampton Borough Council rebuked by MA over public consultation on Egyptian statue
Patrick Steel
Northampton Borough Council faces criticism from local groups and the Museums Association’s (MA) ethics committee over its consultation into the sale of an Egyptian funerary statue of Sekhemka, which is part of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery’s collection and has been valued at £2m.

The consultation, which closed at the end of last month, asked locals to choose whether the £2m should be spent on the £1m restoration of Delapre Abbey, the expansion of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, the establishment of a National Shoe Museum or the development of Abington Park Museum.

Nick Merriman, chairman of the MA’s ethics committee, which gave written advice to the council earlier this year to “consult explicitly about the proposal to sell”, said: “I have looked at the wording of the consultation put forward by the council and, in my view, it does not represent the ‘extensive and full consultation’ in our advice.
“In particular, the questionnaire just asks respondents to tick which area of investment the sale proceeds should go to. It does not ask people whether the sale should go ahead, and does not ‘acknowledge the historical importance of the object to the museum’.

“I would advise the council to widen the scope of its consultation so that it complies with the advice we have given.”

Gunilla Loe, chair of the Save Sekhemka Action Group, said: “We are against selling the statue, but if it must be disposed of for curatorial reasons, then we would prefer it to be lent to another museum.

“If no museum wishes to borrow it, and the council decides it has to be sold, then we do not want the money to go to Delapre Abbey. The museum projects included in the consultation are too vague, there are no costings and they have not been planned out.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Project plans for Delapre Abbey are more advanced than those for the museum, but we wanted to give people the chance to give their views on both investment opportunities and also suggest any other ideas.”

The timescale for the sale of the statue is still to be determined. But the spokeswoman said that the council would be speaking to the MA once it had the consultation results.

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