Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Farewell Of The Save Sekhemka Action Group

On 10 July 2014 the Sekhemka Statue was sold to an unknown buyer at Christie’s for a gross sum of £16m.  The Action group still does not know who the buyer is or to which country the statue will go.
This sale took place despite the Action Group’s two year campaign to stop it, a campaign that did attract support from ordinary Northampton people as well as eminent academic and museum professionals.
During our campaign we pointed out time and again the consequences of a sale for Northampton Borough Council (NBC) and its museums.  These warnings were ignored by the NBC Cabinet and its Leader, Cllr David Mackintosh, and by the Chief Executive, David Kennedy, and the Director of Cultural and Customer Services, Julie Seddon.
The Museums have lost their Accreditation and membership of the Museums Association (MA) which means that they will no longer be able to receive outside funding from Arts Council England (ACE) or the Heritage Lottery Fund; this is demoralising for the museum staff and places the possibility of the extension to the Central Museum in jeopardy.
The Action Group has reached the end of the road, there are no further effective actions we can take.  However, as a result of our campaigning ACE and the MA are looking at strengthening the rules on the disposal of museum collections and the ethical responsibilities of Local Authorities who have museums in their care;  the academic world is debating their role in caring for collections.
The Action Group will keep its website and face book page open and UPDATED on ALL developments.  We are also supporting research by various Egyptian institutions regarding the legality of the 2nd Marquess of Northampton’s purchase and export of the statue in 1850; was it in accordance with the then Egyptian laws on antique artefacts since there is, as far as we know, no documentation on this in the UK? If the purchase and export of Sekhemka can be proved to be illegal the Egyptian authorities would like the statue repatriated – an outcome the Action Group would welcome unless a major British museum would act as a custodian on behalf of Egypt.
The members of the Action Group are sad that our two years of work did not have a more positive outcome; we are very grateful for all the support given by the public, the museum world, ACE and the MA and we fervently hope that our disappointment will not result in other action groups holding back in their campaigns – go for it and think positively.
Gunilla Loe
Chair of the Save Sekhemka Action Group
Northampton 30 October 2014

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Northampton Museums Service barred from Museums Association membership

Northampton Museums Service has been barred from Museum Association membership for at least five years.

David Fleming, chairman of the MA's Ethics Committee, said: “We do appreciate the huge financial pressure that many local authority museums are under at the present time, but the MA's Code of Ethics provides for such a sale only as a last resort after other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored. At a time when public finances are pressured it is all the more important that museum authorities behave in an ethical fashion in order to safeguard the long-term public interest. Museums have a duty to hold their collections in trust for society. They should not treat their collections as assets to be monetised for short-term gain."

We wholeheartedly agree and have been saying this for many months. Sadly the worst has happened for Northampton's museums.

You can read the decision in full here: