Statement about Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, and Abington Park

  • 1 August 2014

The Art Fund fully supports the decision by Arts Council England to remove Accreditation from Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and Abington Park Museum following Northampton Borough Council’s sale of the Egyptian statue of Sekhemka from its collection.

A museum has a duty to care for its collection responsibly and to adhere to the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics and the well-established sector standards. Removing accreditation is sadly necessary if these standards are not followed.

While the sale may have partially addressed a short-term financial need, the £8m raised is small compared with the potential loss of income from funding schemes for which the museum will now no longer be eligible.

Many objects in public collections are donated or bequeathed to museums by generous individuals; such gifts are predicated on museums being long-term, safe and trustworthy custodians of our shared cultural heritage. We must protect the understanding that local authorities – which run a third of all accredited museums – hold these items as cultural assets for long-term public benefit, not financial gain.

To date the Art Fund has provided grants towards the purchase of five paintings, two busts and four other works of sculptures for the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, and gifted the museum 15 further works of art which were given via the Art Fund. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which we – as a body adding to the collections of museums – would fund a museum which has so little regard for the integrity of its collection; the Art Fund requires all applicants for its Acquisitions Programme to be either provisionally or fully accredited under the Arts Council England Accreditation Scheme, so as to ensure that any acquisition will be part of a collection that is well cared for and properly maintained.