Royal Museums Greenwich is looking to dispose of a North American Birchbark Canoe

Guidance on curatorial disposal

Patrick Steel, 20.10.2015
Legal advice for museums in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
The Museums Association (MA) has published independent legal advice on curatorial disposal from museum collections.

The guidance, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, has been produced independently by Janet Ulph.

Intended to supplement the MA’s disposal toolkit, the guidance focuses on objects that are not being engaged with by the public, where a curator judges it may be best to dispose, particularly where there is a hope that it will be enjoyed elsewhere.

There is a strong presumption for retaining objects within the public domain, and museums will normally seek to dispose of objects to other museums, or other public institutions, where this is possible; accredited museums will give preference to another accredited museum.

Alistair Brown, the MA’s policy officer, said: “Along with the MA's disposal toolkit, this guidance will be a really useful resource for anyone considering disposals from their collections as part of a collections review.

“It is also very timely guidance, as funding cuts and public scrutiny put pressure on museums to make the most of their existing capacity to display and store items.”

Museums should note that the guidance is not intended to replace the need to seek advice from a lawyer. Advice for museums in Scotland will be published separately in the future.

Links and downloads

Guidelines on curatorially motivated disposal (pdf)

Disposal toolkit

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