ACE strips Northampton Museums Service of Accreditation

Decision follows council's controversial sale of Sekhemka statue
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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Arts Council England (ACE) announced today that it has stripped Northampton Museums Service of Accreditation following the disposal of the ancient Egyptian statue Sekhemka.

Northampton Borough Council controversially sold the statue for £15.8m at auction last month and will take home £8m of the proceeds. The remaining share will go to Lord Northampton, whose ancestors donated the statue to the museum.
 
Following a hearing last week, the arts council’s Accreditation panel found that the process leading up to the sale and the sale itself were in contravention of the Accreditation standard.

In a statement today, the arts council said: “As a result of this non-compliance the two museums managed by Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and Abington Park Museum, have been removed from the Accreditation scheme, effective as of 1 August 2014, and excluded from future participation for a minimum period of five years, until at least August 2019.”

Scott Furlong, the director of the arts council’s acquisitions, exports and loans unit, said: “It is always hugely regrettable when we have to exclude a museum from the Accreditation scheme. However, it is equally important that we are robust in upholding the standards and principles which underpin the scheme and are shared by the vast majority of museums.

“I am confident that the museums sector and wider community will share our dismay at the way this sale has been conducted and support the decision to remove Northampton Museums Service from the scheme.”

Furlong added that the disposal and others like it created “a very real risk” that public trust in museums, particularly that of potential donors and funders, could be undermined.

Peter Knott, the director of the arts council’s midlands office, said: “We take the responsibility of long-term stewardship of museum collections very seriously and it is clear that the sale may have negative consequences for the authority.”

The loss of Accreditation could affect the museum service’s ability to apply for grant funding in future.

Council leader David Mackintosh said: “It is disappointing that [ACE] is removing the Accreditation from Northampton Museums Service and also puzzling at a time when we are possibly one of the only local authorities in the country with plans for a multimillion pound investment in their museum service.

“However, we are confident that with the more than £8m we have from the sale of Sekhemka, we will be able to attract funding from elsewhere for our extension so there will be absolutely no reduction in our current cultural offer.”

Mackintosh added that the council may appeal the panel’s decision and is seeking legal advice.

Northampton Museums Service’s membership of the Museums Association (MA) may also be reviewed following the sale.

The MA's president David Anderson said he welcomed the arts council's decision. He said: "I feel the council made a major mistake in selling the sculpture and it is important that they and others understand that there are serious consequences for any local authority that acts in this way."



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