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Museums & Ethics

September 19, 2013

Money is tight for some museums, and in some cases it is tempting to sell off some of the collection. Croydon Museum is planning to sell off some of its valued Chinese ceramics. This has caused some concern within the museum world including the Arts Council. Croydon is an Accredited Museum, which means it confirms to national standards over the care of collections, public services and good governance. For the public it provides quality assurance, for instance you can expect any objects you donate to the museum, don’t end up being sold at a later date, or at least not until due process has taken place. The sale of museum collections should only be considered carefully and, if it does occur, should benefit the museum or public.

Riesco china from Croydon

Riesco china from Croydon


In this case the Museums Association feels that the planned sale has not been undertaken with the best of intentions and may breach museum code of ethics. Croydon could be ejected from the Museums Association, which would only be third organisation in over 100 years!

This does raise the issue of when a Local Authority feels that the actions they take, in this case selling part of the collection, may adversely effect their museum, but feel that benefit to other services are more important.
Although running a museum is not a statutory obligation it does confer moral and ethical responsibilities. Obligations that Croydon may not have been fully aware when they considered their sale?

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