Northampton Museums barred from Museum Association over sale of Sekhemka statue
The Northampton Sekhemka on display at Christie's auction house in central London - AFP
By RANY MOSTAFA

CAIRO: Northampton Museum Services has been barred from the membership in the U.K. Museum Association (MA) for a minimum period of five years over their sale of the renowned ancient Egyptian Sekhemka statue, according to a MA statement Monday.

The MA’s disciplinary panel ruled that the service, which is run by Northampton Borough Council, “breached the MA’s Code of Ethics by selling the ancient Egyptian statue Sekhemka from the collection of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.”

According to the website of the Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Museum Services cares for a collection of 12,000 shoes and 50,000 archival records including documentary footage and fine art.

On July 11, the Northampton Borough Council sold a limestone statue of Sekhemka, from the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery collection, at an auction by Christie’s for £15,762,500.

The council said it intended to share the proceeds with Lord Northampton, whose ancestors donated the statue to the museum, and to use its share of the proceeds to fund a £14m extension of the museum.

“The MA’s Ethics Committee found that Northampton Borough Council had not demonstrated that the sale of Sekhemka was funding of last resort, in relation to the development plans for the museum site. In addition, its plan to share the proceeds of the sale indicated that legal title of the object was not resolved,” said the statement.

The MA’s acting head of policy, Sharon Heal, said that the decision came after “careful consideration.”

“Northampton Borough Council has clearly breached the MA’s Code of Ethics by selling the statues from its collection. Its actions are a clear violation of public trust at a local, national and international level,” said Heal on the MA’s website.

On Aug. 2, Arts Council England (ACE), the U.K.’s main body which funds governmental grants to cultural institutions and museums, stripped the Northampton museum’s accreditation scheme and announced it would be ineligible for funding for at least five years for selling the Egyptian statue.

The Accreditation Scheme sets national standards for British museums, and encourages them to identify areas for development.

“The MA is convening a summit of funding bodies later in the year to agree on a new range of sanctions and deterrents for governing bodies considering this course of action,” said Heal.

In addition, the Save The Sekhemka Action Group, formed to prevent the sale of the statue, praised the decision.

“We wholeheartedly agree and have been saying this for many months. Sadly the worst has happened for Northampton’s museums,” The Save The Sekhemka Action Group said on its website Monday.

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