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SPRI Museum & Archives - Acquisition and Disposal Policy

SPRI Museum & Archives - Acquisition and Disposal Policy

November 2005

1. Introduction

SPRI Museum Mission Statement

The role of the Museum of the Scott Polar Research Institute is to promote understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage resulting from the exploration and scientific study of the polar regions by organisations and individuals of all nations, but particularly by those of Great Britain. This is achieved by collecting, documenting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting material evidence resulting from past human activity in the Arctic and Antarctic, and also by promoting interest in, and understanding of, the heritage by making the Institute's collections and associated information available to the public.

1.1. Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.

(Museums Association, Code of Ethics for Museums).

1.2. Since 1934, when the SPRI Museum was opened, the development of the collections has been characterised by systematic organisation, the adoption of a deliberate collecting policy and the professional guidance of both curatorial staff and specialist advisors. The Museum's collections have been built upon the principle of seeking to represent human activity and the natural environment in the polar regions.

1.3 This policy and collection development strategy will be published and reviewed at regular intervals (at least every five years). The Museum, Library & Archives Council will be notified of any changes to this policy, and the implications of any such changes for the future of existing collections.

Latest date for next review: 30 April 2008

2. Acquisitions

2.1. The aim of this policy document is to define what the Museum collects and to establish the rationale for the collections. Acquisitions outside the current stated policy should only be made in very exceptional circumstances, and then only after proper consideration by the management Committee, having regard to the interests of other museums. MLA (The Museum, Library and Archives Council) and the Cambridgeshire County Museums Officer will be notified of any changes to the Acquisition and Disposal Policy.

2.2.1 Within the constraint of limited resources, SPRI seeks to acquire material enabling the Museum to present a rounded picture of British polar activities, whether concerned with exploration, science, whaling, sealing, administration, or other matters. Materials for other nations are also collected where opportunity arises, but not actively sought. Acquisitions activities are pursued in close liaison with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and with other British institutions concerned with the preservation of the national polar heritage.

2.2.2 The collections are divided into two geographic areas, Arctic and Antarctic, with a number of specialised curatorial areas (ethnography and material culture, exploration history and technology, modern polar scientific instruments, artworks including sculpture and scrimshaw). Material is still being actively collected and all disciplines are subject to coherent but distinct collecting plans. Purchases and fieldwork projects are presented to the Management Committee for approval.

2.3. The Director is responsible for the overall development and implementation of the policy and approves all proposals for acquisition or loan on the basis of advice from curatorial staff. Any purchases over £10,000 require Management Committee approval, whether of individual objects or collections.

2.4. The Museum will not acquire, whether by purchase, gift, bequest or exchange, any object or specimen unless the Management Committee or responsible officer is satisfied that the museum can acquire a valid title to the item in question, and that in particular it has not been acquired in or exported from, its country of origin (or any intermediate country in which it may have been legally owned) in violation of that country's laws. (For the purposes of this paragraph 'country of origin' includes the United Kingdom).
(MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.a).

2.5. In addition, the Museum adheres to the UNESCO Convention 1970.

2.6. So far as biological and geological material is concerned, the Museum will not acquire by any direct or indirect means any specimen that has been collected, sold or otherwise transferred in contravention of any national or international wildlife protection or natural history conservation law or treaty of the United Kingdom or any other country, except with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority
(MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.b).

2.7. So far as British or foreign archaeological antiquities (including excavated ceramics) are concerned, the Museum will not acquire objects in any case where the Management Committee or responsible officer has reasonable cause to believe that the circumstances of their recovery involved the recent unscientific or intentional destruction or damage of ancient monuments or other known archaeological sites, or involve a failure to disclose the finds to the owner or occupier of the land , or to the proper authorities in the case of a possible Treasure Trove (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or Bona Vacantia (Scotland).
(MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.c).

2.8. Outside specialists may be commissioned to collect objects and documentation on the Museum's behalf. Fees and expenses will be met from the normal fieldwork and acquisitions budget and the specialist should enter into a formal Fieldwork Contract with the Museum.

2.9 Gifts and bequests shall only be accepted on the basis that any conditions are approved by the Museum Committee, and in all cases reference will be made to the limitations on collecting as specified in the policy. The Management Committee shall reserve the right to refuse any offer of material.

2.10 Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in very exceptional circumstances, and then only after proper consideration by the Museum's Management Committee, having regard to the interests of other museums.

3. Disposals

3.1. The collections of the SPRI Museum are held in pursuit of the educational and charitable activities of the University of Cambridge. The collections are held for the benefit of the public. The original Scott memorial Trust gift was endowed in perpetuity and subsequent acquisitions have been made, and will continue to be made, under the same conditions.

3.2. By definition, the Museum has a long-term purpose and should possess (or intend to acquire) permanent collections in relation to its stated objectives. The Management Committee accepts the principle that there is a strong presumption against the disposal of material from the Museum's collections. (MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.d.).

The safeguarding of the integrity of the core collections as identified in the Collection Development Strategy will be regarded as paramount.

3.3. In those cases where the Museum is legally free to dispose of an item (if this is in doubt, advice will be sought) it is agreed that any decision to sell or otherwise dispose of material from the collections will be taken only after due consideration. Decisions to dispose of items will not be made with the principle aim of generating funds. Once a decision to dispose of an item has been taken, priority will be given to retaining the item within the public domain and with this view it will be offered first, by exchange, gift or sale to Accredited museums before disposal to other interested individuals or organisations is considered.

(MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.e).

3.4. In cases in which an arrangement for the exchange, gift or sale of material is not being made with an individual Accredited museum, the museum community at large will be advised of the intention to dispose of material. This will normally be through an announcement in the Museums Association's Museums Journal and other appropriate professional journals if appropriate. The announcement will indicate the number and nature of specimens or objects involved, and the basis on which the material will be transferred to another institution. A period of at least two months will be allowed for an interest in acquiring the material to be expressed. (MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.f).

3.5. A decision to dispose of a specimen or object, whether by exchange, sale, gift or destruction, (in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use for the purpose of the collections), will be the responsibility of the Management Committee of the Museum acting on the advice of the Director and professional curatorial staff and not of the curator of the collection acting alone. Full records will be kept of all such decisions and the items involved and proper arrangements made for the preservation and/or transfer, as appropriate, of the documentation relating to the items concerned, including photographic records where practicable. (MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.g).

3.6. Any monies received by the museum from the disposal of items will be applied for the benefit of the collections. This normally means the purchase of further acquisitions but in exceptional cases improvements relating to the care of collections may be justifiable. Advice on these cases will be sought from MLAC. (MGC Registration Guidelines 1995, paragraph 4.2.5.h).

3.7 The disposal of any object which has been acquired with the aid of a grant must comply with the conditions under which the grant was made. When a Museum object has been acquired with the aid of an external funding organization, permission from that organization will need to be sought before the object is deaccessioned or transferred to another museum. If the object is sold, repayment of the original grant may be required.

4. Constraints on collecting

4.1 All staff involved in collection development must make themselves aware of and abide by national and international laws and conventions concerning the purchase of animal material, cultural heritage items and other sensitive material (see paragraphs 2.5,2.6, 2.7). Individual items may also be subject to Health and Safety, Firearms and Offensive weapons and other legislation.

4.2 The Museum is committed to treating human remains in accordance with the MEG guidelines of 1991, or any updated versions. Objects which would be regarded as sacred in the cultural tradition from which they come should only be acquired, displayed or made accessible to the public in a manner which reflects respect for those traditions and objects. The treatment of human remains and sacred material will be subject to review by the senior curators who will advise the Director on the Museum's policy in the light of procedures in other relevant organisations.

4.3 The Museum will take due account of the collecting policies of other museums collecting in the same or related areas or subject fields and will consult with such organisations where conflicts of interest may arise or to define areas of specialism, in order to avoid unnecessary

duplication and waste of resources.

4.4 A condition audit will be prepared by a conservator as part of the formal documentation of a proposed acquisition. An object requiring specialised care or treatment should only be acquired if the Museum is able to provide the appropriate level of care.

4.5 Associated costs, including the need for conservation treatment, transport, storage space and materials will be taken into consideration when the decision to acquire an object is made.

4.6 A lack of supporting documentation must be considered a strong argument against the acquisition of an object.

4.7 Duplication of material within the collections is to be avoided. Apparent duplicates may be acquired in cases where the objects are accompanied by particularly fine documentation; where they form part of a larger, well-documented collection; where there is reason to believe that variations in craft-work or context will lead to an increased understanding of a particular culture or group of objects. Arguments in favour of the acquisition of apparent duplicates should form part of the formal documentation of the object.

4.8 A handling collection will be built up with the specific intention of including duplicates of items in the three collections. It is listed for audit purposes but is not considered as part of the Registered Collection.

Appendix 1: Collection Development Strategy

1. Collections overview

The Museum of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) displays a select collection of artefacts, photographs, artwork and manuscripts from historic British expeditions to the Antarctic and Arctic, particularly those of Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912), Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1922), and Sir John Franklin (1786-1847). Items on display include materials found in the tent with the bodies of Scott, Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers; the sleeping bag of Captain Lawrence Oates; watercolours by Wilson; equipment used by Scott's and other expeditions; journals from Shackleton's Nimrod and Endurance expeditions; sledges used among others by Scott, the British Graham Land Expedition (1934-1937), and Wally Herbert's first crossing of the Arctic Ocean (1968-1969); a kayak from East Greenland; and the world's earliest collected Emperor penguin egg. Arctic displays and collections relate primarily to the British naval Northwest Passage expeditions of the first half of the 19th century. They include journals, artwork, daguerrotypes, and cutlery recovered from Franklin's last expedition. Other exhibits are devoted to Inuit sculpture and scrimshaw. Of materials not on display, artefact collections, including clothing, exploration technologies and artworks are housed in the Museum's stores. The Archives hold extensive manuscript and photographic collections.

2. Period of time and/or geographical area to which collecting relates

2.1 The Institute's collections have well-defined geographical limits, which are spelt out in detail here. The Antarctic is taken to include the continent itself together with its surrounding waters and islands north to the Antarctic Convergence but including also those Peri-Antarctic islands occurring north of this zone but still strongly subject to Antarctic influences (Gough Island, the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, Iles Amsterdam and Saint-Paul, Iles Crozet, Macquarie Island, and the Prince Edward Islands). This area corresponds to the zone of interest of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

2.2 The definition adopted for the Arctic is broadly that of The circumpolar north (Armstrong, Rogers and Rowley, 1978), with minor modifications affecting south-east Alaska and Labrador. Seas covered are the Arctic Ocean and adjacent waters: the various seas north of Russia (Chukchi, East Siberian, Laptev, Kara and White seas); Barents Sea; Norwegian Sea; Greenland Sea; Labrador Sea; Davis Strait and Baffin Bay; Hudson Bay; Lincoln Sea; waters of the Canadian Arctic Islands; Beaufort Sea; Bering Sea; the Sea of Okhotsk; and the Gulf of Alaska. Land areas covered include Alaska (except for the Panhandle); the Canadian Territories (Yukon, Northwest and Nunavut); those parts of Quebec and Labrador occupied by the Inuit; Greenland; Iceland (natural history only); Svalbard; the European Arctic south to the Arctic Circle; and the Russian Federation south to 63ºN in European Russia and to 57ºN in Asia, including all of Kamchatka and Sakhalin.

2.3 Given SPRI's origin as a memorial to Captain Scott and his four companions - Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates, and Edgar Evans - special consideration is given to the acquisition of materials from Scott's Terra Nova expedition (1910-13) and most of all to materials concerning these five men, according due cognizance to the intentions of other institutions also concerned with their commemoration (Oates Museum, Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, etc.). High priority is also placed on acquiring materials from Scott's Discovery expedition (1901-04), such acquisitions being undertaken in consultation with Discovery Point, Dundee. Since the opening of the Shackleton Memorial Library in 1998, special priority has also been accorded to the three Antarctic expeditions of Sir Ernest Shackleton (1907-09, 1914-17, and 1921-22).

3. Collection policies of other museums
The Museum will take due account of the collecting policies of other museums collecting in the same or related areas or subject fields and will consult with such organizations where conflicts of interest may arise or to define areas of specialisms, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and waste of resources.

Specific reference is made to the following museums:

National Maritime Museum

Natural History Museum (London)

Discovery Point

Oates Museum

Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum

4. Handling collections held by the Education Section

4.1. The handling collection is distinct from the main museum collections. It is managed by education staff and it will be developed, stored and maintained from a separate budget.

4.2. There will be co-operation between the curators and the education staff to develop the handling collection and to review it at regular (probably yearly) intervals. The development of the handling collection will be co-ordinated with the development of the main collections and with plans for fieldwork and exhibitions. Curatorial and research staff will be expected to liaise with education staff to ensure that a representative selection of artefacts are acquired for the handling collection during the course of fieldwork.

4.3. Handling material will be documented through the Museum's central procedure and will be examined by a curator at the time of recording. Important items or material which is not represented in the main collection may be diverted into the appropriate curatorial section at the time of entry. Registered museum objects which have been lent to the handling collection in the past should be returned to the curatorial collections or de-accessioned. The handling collection should be made available to curatorial staff as a resource for study and as an interpretative tool for exhibitions and displays.

5. Library Accessions

5.1 The Library acquires printed, audio-visual and digital materials in the fields of polar studies, and library, archive and museum administration in pursuance of the corporate objectives of the Scott Polar Research Institute.