MA updates disposal toolkit

Patrick Steel, 31.03.2014
Update includes guidance on financially motivated disposal
In conjunction with Arts Council England, Cymal, Museums Galleries Scotland and the Northern Ireland Museums Council, the Museums Association (MA) has revised its disposal toolkit.

Based on the MA's code of ethics, the toolkit provides detailed advice on the process of identifying appropriate items for disposal, and ensuring that their removal from a museum collection is ethical.

For the first time, the toolkit also includes an appendix with guidance on financially motivated disposal. It is hoped that the new appendix will help museums understand the exceptional circumstances when it is regarded as acceptable to sell items from collections.

Mark Taylor, the MA’s director, said: “Of late there have been some controversial sales but only Croydon Council has flagrantly breached the MA’s code of ethics and was barred from membership and lost their Accredited status.

“This new advice is to help museums through the decisions that need to be made to maintain the confidence of the public who, in most cases, are the owners of the collections.”

Scott Furlong, the arts council’s director of acquisitions, exports, loans and collections, said: “The appendix has been added to the toolkit because it feels right to provide guidance and support to colleagues who find themselves having difficult discussions around financially motivated disposal and need help to ensure that those discussions can happen within a clear ethical framework.

“The provision of these additional guidelines will further expose those who choose to approach the sale of collections cynically or with little regard for cultural value and agreed standards and ethics.

“They will find that they alienate both the public and funding bodies who put their trust in museums to care for our shared inheritance.”

Jenny Abramsky, chairwoman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "We are fully behind the updated disposal toolkit for museums, particularly the guidance relating to financially-motivated sales.

"Whilst we do understand the growing pressure museum governing bodies are subject to, we would not want to see collections used as financial assets.

"As outlined in the Heritage Lottery Fund’s latest strategic framework, we will be taking greater account of applicants’ track records when it comes to deciding which projects to support."

The disposal toolkit was first published in 2008, following a vote by the MA’s members in 2007 to change the code of ethics to accept financially motivated disposal in exceptional circumstances.


Disposal toolkit (pdf)

Additional guidance on financially motivated disposal (pdf)

Disposal toolkit [Welsh] (pdf)

Additional guidance on financially motivated disposal [Welsh] (pdf)


This article was updated to include comment from the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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Alice Lambert
MA Member
07.04.2014, 16:16
I am absolutely delighted that the MA have decided to further clarify this often perplexing process of financially-motivated disposal for museums. It is now more than ever that we need pragmatic advice which acknowledges the complexity of collections management and tackles head-on tricky ethical issues such as disposal. Thank you!!