William Eichler 27 March 2018

Whitehall should ‘ease restrictions’ on sale of museum items, law firm says

The Government should ease restrictions preventing local authority museums from selling items in their possession, law firm says.

Just 10% of the 200 million items held by the UK’s museums are on display, with the vast majority of pieces being held in storage.

Law firm Winckworth Sherwood, whose clients include local authorities, charities, museums and other not-for-profit organisations, has called on Whitehall to remove any restrictions on the sale of items valued under £5,000 and on any duplicate items.

Published in the report Culture, art and heritage in times of austerity, the recommendations also included a call for an easing of restrictions on the sale of items that cannot be displayed or do not reflect the focus of a museum.

‘The restrictions and red tape on local authority museums may have been well-intended, but at a time when funds are desperately short they are crippling and threatening the long-term future of local authority museums,’ said Simon Randall, a consultant at Winckworth Sherwood.

‘Our report recommends the removal and easing of restrictions on sale and that local authority museums be moved into museum trusts to allow them to better access philanthropy and private investment.’

Joanna Bussell, a partner in the charities and local authority team at Winckworth Sherwood adds: ‘It is critically important that museums are clear about their focus and their collections reflect that focus. This will inform any rationalisation programme. Communication with key stakeholders will be essential.

‘Disposal should only be considered in the context of reinvestment – reinvestment in the facilities, the services, the cultural offer. It is fully acknowledged that disposals are an emotive subject for the sector with any prospective sale attracting critical headlines.

‘Again, this is why it is critically important for local authority’s to be very clear about their vision and purpose.’

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