Dodo from Kendal Museum's collection

Ethics Committee convenor reports on Sefton disposal

Patrick Steel, 02.10.2012
Report stresses importance of early and widespread consultation
The Museums Association today published a report by Nick Merriman, the convener of the Ethics Committee, in which he reports that the retention of Sefton Council’s collections in the public domain is a good outcome, but that professional advice and greater transparency would have improved the process.

The report follows concerns expressed at the transfer of two collections of historic taxidermy, the Pennington and Echalaz Collections, from Sefton Council to the British Historical Taxidermy Society Trust and whether the transfer complied with the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics and Disposal Toolkit.

Merriman was asked by the MA to produce a report analysing what the procedure had been and what lessons, if any, might be learnt which would be of future benefit in refining MA advice and guidance.

In light of the case, Merriman has recommended that the MA emphasises to all other museums considering disposal the importance of early and widespread consultation and transparency, seeking the advice of museum professionals throughout the process, having a clear communication strategy and closely following the advice contained in the Code of Ethics and the Disposal Toolkit.

Merriman also highlighted the plight of orphaned and neglected natural history collections in non-national museums.

“Many of my informants noted that Sefton was not likely to be an isolated case, and mentioned other collections that they felt were neglected and at risk of disposal,” he wrote. “There is a need for higher awareness of the current state of natural history collections and clear thinking about their future use and management.”

To read the full report, please click here (pdf)

For a statement from the Ethics Committee, click here (pdf)


Sort by: Most recent - Most liked
Vanessa Trevelyan
MA Member
Director, Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
04.10.2012, 14:55
I think that Nick Merriman has done an excellent job of reviewing a very complex case. His report certainly emphasises the need for early and transparent consultant in such cases. It is also salutary that it underlines the need for all museum bodies to have an appropriately qualified member of staff to advise them in these instances.