Is it ethical for a UK museum to buy Sekhemka?

Rebecca Atkinson, 29.04.2015
Vote in the poll and have your say
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.


Is it ethical for a UK museum to buy Sekhemka?


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11.05.2015, 15:32
will you be with the Save Sekhemka Action Group when it comes down to action ?
01.05.2015, 16:49
Moving funds around numerous public bodies to cover shortfalls at a borough council who happens to have found a way to asset strip the museum they are supposed to be looking after... it sounds criminal - and if it isn't, it should be.
Lucy Gardner
Exhibitions Officer, Bulldog Trust
01.05.2015, 09:28
I cant even believe I'm reading this!
30.04.2015, 11:35
Surely no major museum would consider raising that sort of money on an item whose ownership is still a matter of some doubt, however slight, and where the currently 'owning' museum is not a willing partner in this unpleasant deal?
30.04.2015, 10:12
As my fellow Save Sekhemka Action Group campaigner, Ruth Thomas, has stated buying Sekhemka back would just repeat the first offence.
The Action Group, which consists of museum professionals made redundant in an earlier council swoop on culture in Northampton as well as former museum volunteers, knows only too well the difficulties which besiege Local Authority run museums as well as our major ones. However, this must NOT stop us from calling a halt to unethical sales, rather we should, as the Action Group has suggested, encourage, if not INSIST that, the people in charge of our major museums, ACE and the MA to negotiate with the overseas buyer for a clear and legally defined long term loan to one of the mJor UK Museums and to do it NOW! Time is short and we MUST set an example to the museums and cultural bodies of the world - unethical sales and museums buying looted and smuggled artefacts ( USA comes to mind) is no longer the way to foster culture, tolerance and mutual understanding worldwide. Please DO SOMETHING NOW!
30.04.2015, 04:05
The international consensus among all professional and academic bodies is that the sale of artefacts donated to museum collections is unethical. Northampton Borough Council through the sale of Sekhemka has been vilified and caused its museum to suffer ostracism within the professional museum community. One can only hope that the negative publicity and criticism resulting from the sale of the statue will act as a deterrent to any further sales from UK museums. Of course the predicament now is how to save Sekhemka without repeating the offence. The action group has released a statement recently which looks at possible options and can be found at