Northampton Museum & Art Gallery unveils revamp funded by Sekhemka sale - Museums Association

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery unveils revamp funded by Sekhemka sale

Institution reopens to the public after controversial capital development
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
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A new permanent Shoe Gallery showcases Northampton’s shoe-making heritage
A new permanent Shoe Gallery showcases Northampton’s shoe-making heritage Northampton Museums

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery has revealed the results of its £6.7m redevelopment seven years after the sale of an Egyptian statue saw it stripped of its Accreditation and barred from membership of the Museums Association (MA).

The capital project was funded by the disposal of an ancient Egyptian statue depicting the scribe Sekhemka and his wife, which was sold at auction to an anonymous buyer for £15.76m in 2014.

Northampton Museums, run at the time by Northampton Borough Council, had its Arts Council England Accreditation withdrawn and was barred from MA membership for five years after the MA ethics committee ruled that the sale had contravened Code of Ethics guidelines for financially motivated disposal.

The proceeds of the sale were split between the council – which has since been replaced by West Northamptonshire Council – and the Marquess of Northamptonshire as part of a controversial legal agreement over the statue’s ownership.

West Northamptonshire Council leader Johnathan Nunn told the BBC this week that he was “not sure” if a similar sale would happen again.

“If it did it would be done in a very open, consultative way, with people genuinely being able to understand what the implications were, and to have their say,” he said.

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The redevelopment, which opened to the public on 10 July, has seen the museum double in size with a glazed atrium linking the original building to a new galleries and activity space. The atrium features a café and outdoor terrace.

The revamped museum has a new Shoe Gallery showcasing Northampton’s shoe and shoe-making heritage collection, which is one of the largest in the world. The building also features an expanded museum shop selling crafts by local artists and makers.

Visitors can see three temporary exhibitions at the venue: We Are Northampton, which explores the town’s heritage and character; Challenging Perspectives, an exhibition looking back at the life and work of the artist Christopher Fiddes, who lives in the county; and the Inspiration exhibition, which explores how artists use the world around them to spark creativity.

Nick Gordon, cultural services manager at West Northamptonshire Council, said: “Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is a significant addition to the area’s cultural life and provides an impressive new focal point for art, heritage and culture, in the heart of Northampton’s expanding Cultural Quarter.

“Visitors can discover our internationally important shoe collection, explore the town’s rich history, and experience an ever-changing programme of art, activities, events and temporary exhibitions – we can’t wait to welcome people back.”

The council has been granted provisional Accreditation after reapplying, and is hoping to apply for full Accreditation now that the museum has opened.

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