Ethics Committee advises Northampton to hold off sale of £2m monument

Patrick Steel, 25.09.2012
More consultation needed to establish financially-motivated disposal is ‘last resort’
The Museums Association’s Ethics Committee has issued advice to Northampton Borough Council on its proposal to sell an Egyptian funerary monument from the collections of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

Maurice Davies, the MA’s head of policy and communications, said: “We are very pleased that Northampton Borough Council spoke to us at an early stage and on Thursday 13 September the Ethics Committee considered a formal request for advice on disposal.

“The committee applauded the council’s desire to invest in its museum service, but at this stage doesn’t feel that its plans are defined enough to enable a judgement to be made about the long term public benefit that would be achieved by this sale.”

The council has stated it wants to sell the funerary monument, valued at £2m and depicting a high official called Sekhemka in the old kingdom of dynastic Egypt c.2400 BC, to raise funds for “the restoration of Delapre Abbey, improvements to the museum service and/or other cultural or heritage projects”.

In the Ethics Committee's advice, it states: “We think there is much more consultation to do, especially locally and with other key stakeholders…

"There is a need to consult explicitly about the proposal to sell, acknowledging the historical importance of the object to the museum and clearly articulating the significantly increased long-term public benefits that any sale proceeds will support.

“Extensive and full consultation will improve transparency and so help to mitigate the risk of damaging public confidence and trust in museums through the proposed sale. The proposal should be managed with care and sensitivity to public perceptions.”

To download the Ethics Committee's full advice, click here (word)

For more on sale of collections, please click here