Davies: disposal is often a good thing

Patrick Steel, 22.05.2013
MA policy head stresses importance of carefully planned disposal
Speaking at the Finnish Museums Association Annual Conference in Kouvola tomorrow, the Museums Association’s (MA) head of policy, Maurice Davies, will set out the UK’s approach to disposal, and why the MA thinks it is often a good thing.

"Curatorially-motivated disposal brings great public benefits," he will say. "It is crucial to do it properly. It takes time and planning. It cannot be done in a rush. But in the long-term it will help museums run better and be sustainable for the long term."

Davies will also discuss financially-motivated disposal, using examples such as Northampton Museum and the British Postal Museum, and will tell delegates: “Financially-motivated disposal is newer and riskier, but it may turn out to have a role in helping museums thrive for the long term.”

The key things with all types disposal, he will stress, are: to think clearly about why you are disposing; make sure you have enough time to carry the disposal out properly; have a good, clear, decision-making process; consult and be transparent; and always give priority to the public benefit.

Davies said he had been invited to speak at the conference because in several European countries there is quite a lot of interest in the UK's approach to disposal.

“Along with the Netherlands, we lead thinking and practice and other countries are keen to learn from our experience,” he said. “A lot of the things we take for granted in the UK can be seen as new and challenging in other places.”


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12.06.2013, 01:15
There is a developing trend in museums for collecting policies to be tailored to enable items to be sold for profit. If it were simply a matter of rationalising collections why not gift unwanted items to those museums whose policies cover that specialism ?
03.06.2013, 14:48
.... with referral to the centres for people with keen interests and where proper research can go on. Northampton museums have for example lots of good pottery, local and national, but some is broken and a lot is duplicated so this would be better off somewhere special rather than take up space in the stores. Obviously museums always need to have enough in store to be able to mount good exhibitions to entice visitors. So NO selling for gain, rather increased co-operation between all our threatened museums. f we start selling we will end up with nothing.
03.06.2013, 14:43
Sometimes disposal for cash is a good thing but NOT when it is handled as unprofessionally and ineptly as is the case in Northampton where the "sale" of Sekhemka is going nowhere.
Of course museums have to sort their collections: when emphasis or expertise changes it is inevitable but should it always be for GAIN ? In these straightened times it is surely better if museums indulge in collection swapping thus enhancing their own and other expertise; regional centres perhaps for "subjects" such as Egyptology, geology, archaeology, pottery where the LOCAL museums RETAIN their posh bits in these subjects with referral to the centres
29.05.2013, 22:08
No Maurice - disposal is SOMETIMES a good thing ( I appreciate that 'often' may be a headline and not your own words)
Sally Colvin
MA Member
28.05.2013, 11:46
Museums Association guidance always suggests that a museum undertake a review of collections before considering disposal – it’s one of the distinguishing features of curatorially motivated disposal rather than financially motivated. In this context, unless I’ve misunderstood the comment, if a museum undertakes a review with rationalisation in mind, disposal is one of the likely outcomes?
Vanessa Platt
MA Member
22.05.2013, 21:45
Are we speaking here about the rationalisation of museum collections - since the latter term is often mistakenly used synonymously with 'disposal' - or is this something different?