Is it ethical for a UK museum to buy Sekhemka?

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Rebecca Atkinson
The temporary export bar on the Egyptian Sekhemka statue, which was controversially sold last July to an overseas buyer by Northampton Borough Council, has given rise to a debate over whether it is ethical for a UK museum to buy it so it can go on public display.

The government has deferred granting an export licence for the statue until 29 July, but this may be extended until 29 March 2016 if a “serious intention” is made by an institution to raise the funds to buy it at the recommended price of £15.7m.

But Alistair Brown, the policy officer at the Museums Association (MA), said it would be difficult for a public organisation to fundraise to buy the object as it would be “cross-subsidising”.

And the Save Sekhemka Action Group has released a statement calling for the buyer of the Egyptian statue to offer it on long-term loan to a major UK museum.

“We will not be part of any fundraising attempt to buy the statue from the present owner,” the group said in a statement. “To do so would be to risk giving legitimacy to similar sales contemplated by other local authorities.”

Would it be unethical for a UK museum to buy Sekhemka using public money? Or would such a purchase be justified if it meant the statue would stay in the UK on public display?

Vote in the poll and have your say in the comment box below.

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