The process leading to the multi-million pound sale of an Egyptian statue by Northampton Borough Council contravened museum accreditation standards, Arts Council England has ruled today.
As a result of the £16 million Sekhemka sale in London last month, the two museums managed by Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and Abington Park Museum, have been removed from the Arts Council’s Accreditation Scheme, effective as of today.
The have also been excluded from future participation for a minimum period of five years, until at least August 2019.
Scott Furlong, director of acquisitions, exports and loans unit at the Arts Council said: “It is always hugely regrettable when we have to exclude a museum from the Accreditation Scheme.
“However, it is equally important that we are robust in upholding the standards and principles which underpin the scheme and are shared by the vast majority of museums.”
“I am confident that the museums sector and wider community will share our dismay at the way this sale has been conducted and support the decision to remove Northampton Museums Service from the scheme.
“It is of great importance that the public retain their trust in museums to look after the collections held in their name. “There is a very real risk that this trust, and particularly that of potential donors and funders, will be seriously undermined if disposals from public collections are seen to be driven by financial considerations and in breach of our professional standards and ethical code.”
Peter Knott, Arts Council director in The Midlands, said: “The Arts Council and Northampton Borough Council have a long history of excellent partnership working.
“In this instance we have a substantive disagreement about the approach they have taken and we have expressed our misgivings during our dialogue with colleagues there.
“The Accreditation Panel has taken a view on compliance with the UK agreed standard and has found Northampton to be in breach of this.
“We take the responsibility of long-term stewardship of museum collections very seriously and it is clear that the sale may have negative consequences for the authority.”