Agenda item

Museum Collections Project - Rationalisation

(F Pellegrino) To consider the attached report regarding the Museum Collections Project rationalisation and progress.


The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues presented a report on the Museum Collections Projects and the rationalisation.


The report set out the problems the museum was facing due to the breath of the collection, documentation, storage, suitability and relevance to the museum and it’s audience. The full capacity meant that there was no expansion space to address any gaps in the collection highlighted in the Collections Development Policy. The Council also needed to ensure that the collection had been thoroughly audited in order to comply with Health & Safety regulations.


There were 5 guiding principles that had been agreed and adopted for the rationalisation project and along side the project process and Museum Association Guidelines.


The Committee noted the following success to date;

·         that the Museum was currently being recognised across the industry as undertaking a fully ethical and high standard project;

  • Articles on the project had been featured in industry magazines, online web resources and the team had been asked to speak at various conferences;
  • The team had uncovered some fantastic stories in the collection which would not have been discovered if the project had not been undertaken;
  • Objects were being stored and cared for better;
  • Documentation and information about each object had improved which also, in turn, supported the current work to improve the Museum’s documentation database and allowed the collections to be made accessible online;
  • The project has the full support of key groups including the Waltham Abbey Historical Society who supported the setup of the Museum in the first place.
  • The audit had highlighted objects and collections that required further work and support. A bid for £120,000 from Arts Council England had been made, to support work on the Museum’s Ethnographic Collection. A further external funding bid would be submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support a partnership project with the Lea Valley Regional Park and Historic England on material relating to the Abbey Church; and
  • So far 10 new volunteers had been recruited for the project with a total of 19 volunteers currently supporting the project. To date, collections volunteers had contributed 556 hours working on this specific project, equating to nearly £5,500 investment into the district.


The Committee asked the following questions;


·         Could historians and/or collectors be given the chance to purchase items before disposal was considered? The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues advised that the Museum Association had a strict code of ethics which governed the process of disposal. This would allow for the sale of items although the core aim was to ensure that most items stayed within the public domain. The only time an item may be disposed of, would be if they contained hazardous materials or were dangerous damaged. 

·         Would anything be disposed of that had not gone through this process? No.

·         What happened to items that have a legal requirement attached to them? The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues advised paper work has to be completed for every donation which would stipulate the Musuems conditions. If an item had been purchase with external funding, there may be conditions which would be looked into. Furthermore, if an item had been deemed no longer required and had been donated in the last 20 years the donor would receive a letter to confirm what was happening with the donation.

·         How would the museum advertise the stories that were being discovered throughout this process? The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues advised that through social media the Museum had started sharing the stories and they were in the initial stages of planning an exhibition next year in core gallery that will display some of the objects as well as explain the process the museum has undertaken.

·         What was the general storage capacity? The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues advised that this project would improve the amount of storage available and allow for areas of the collection that were missing to be improve and continue collecting items from this time for future generations. 

·         How long would the project take? The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues advised that this project would always be an ongoing process where new items were added to the collection. The initial 2 year timescale would audit and research the items, with the more timely matters of transfer unrequired items following.

·         How did the volunteers approach the museum? And how many have them stayed and what training was involved? The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues advised that some volunteers saw the advertisement through social media, the Council’s website and through a specialised website for Museums. All of the volunteers had received the specialist training required and they had all remained.

·         Did the museum have it’s own conservators? The Team Manager for Heritage and Venues advised that although the museum did not have a conservator, they would seek external funding for items that required specialist conservation.


The Community & Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder commented that it was good to see how many volunteers they had attracted.




That the Committee noted the process, reasons and update on the Museum Collect Project.



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