In a controversial move, the council for the south London borough of Croydon will sell off part of its collection of Chinese ceramics, worth an estimated $20 million and donated in 1964. The proceeds are slated to refurbish a local theater and music venue called the Fairfield Halls.
The problem? It’s a violation of the Museums Association’s code of ethics and the Croydon council’s own policies. Further, it will likely result in Croydon’s losing its status as an accredited museum, cutting it off from funding and loans, including those from the British Museum.
The Museums Association is considering disciplinary action and expelling Croydon from the association. Croydon defends that these are “very exceptional circumstances” that justify the deaccessioning, because they don’t want to spend the money to put in an adequate security system for the collection. Further, Croydon explains that it’s a good time to sell Chinese antiquities, since “any decline in the economic climate in Asia could lead to a decrease in the prices achieved.” Further, the collection attracts only 10,000 visitors a year, while the Fairfield Halls attract 300,000.
What do you think? Are those the “exceptional circumstances” contemplated by policies prohibiting the deaccessioning of museum gifts?