A revolution in collection?

Well, that's what the MA (UK Museums Association) is calling it. It's launched an online database of objects for disposal.

As any good student of museology should know, the MA describes disposal as ethical when:

• it is within the framework of a clearly defined collections policy

• it is on the advice of a range of staff (not an individual) and is agreed by the governing body

• it is done with the intention that wherever possible items remain within the public domain

• it is unlikely to damage public trust in museums

• it is likely to increase the public benefit derived from museum collections

• it is communicated openly to stakeholders and the public.*

Points 3 and 6 are often achieved by advertisement in the Museums Journal; in a format somewhat akin to 'classified listings' in the local rag. Though, of course, these items are not 'for sale' in the conventional sense, just free to a good (institutional) home.

Since I first subscribed to the MJ back in 1998 the disposal notices have fascinated me; what weird and wonderful things museums have in their possession (and desperately want to relieve themselves of)!

The new online listings make equally fascinating reading. Got a hankering for back issues of Practical Wireless? Then the Royal Signals Museum can help you out. Need an Edwardian witness box? North Lanarkshire Council will do you a 'deal'. Require a low-tech printing solution? Dover Transport Museum's Arab Press could be just what you're after.

* see - Disposal Toolkit: Guidelines for museums, Museums Association, 2008.


J said…
I think this just contributes to our Antiques Roadshow culture. Even if a museum wants to get rid of it, that still gives it an aura of value to eccentrics everywhere. I think every object needs to be accompanied by a short essay by the curator or director justifying why this object just isn't "museum-worthy" any more.

On the other hand, I am getting amusing visions of IKEA-style films anthropomorphizing objects as they are "put out in the cold" after deaccessioning! "You feel sorry for the little Edwardian witness box? That is because you're CRAZY! Tacky items are not needed here are North Lanarkshire Council!"

Hee hee hee hee...

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