Government Encourages Museums to Sell off Some Family Treasures

Does the new Coalition Government want Museums to sell off some of the family treasures? In late October, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey was asked by the Museum journal, Should cash strapped Museums be allowed to sell from collections, in order to stay open? and as repugnant as it sounds to all of us insiders, the minister from the DCMS has said that museums should not “shy away from disposal” as a way of refreshing collections but added that museums being forced to sell collections in order to stay open would be a “terrible thing”. Vaizey response acknowledged that selling collections is a “hugely emotional” issue. Yeah, emotional but not unthinkable.

He continued: “I personally do think that museums should look carefully at how they are using their collections. Refreshing them means acquiring new objects but it also means disposing of objects. The Museums Association is very robust on this and says disposals are important, directors of national museums have come out as well and said it’s important not to be precious about disposals.”

Reading between the lines, the Q&A session ,which was posted on YouTube last week,shows the nature of this statement as ambiguous raising more questions then actually giving answers. Does he mean it would be a terrible thing to sell a collection; a terrible thing to have to sell a collection to save a museum; or a terrible thing to see collection selling as an acceptable part of museum life? I don’t think his comment actually answers the question properly, but in true political style, leaves all possible avenues open to interpretation by all possible groups.

Ed Vaizey was appointed Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries as part of Jeremy Hunt’s Ministerial Team at the DCMS.  Vaizey who was Shadow Minister for Culture for nearly four years said this was the government job he always wanted to do and he hoped to contribute to making the DCMS a fun, vibrant and exciting Department that lives and breathes the creative industries.


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