Northampton and the Sekhemka statue

Posted on: November 14, 2014 by

Northampton Borough Council, which had earlier this year sold at auction a rare Egyptian statue in its collection for £15.76 million, has been dealt another blow. The 4,000-year-old statue of Sekhemka, an Egyptian Old Kingdom artefact thought to represent a court official and high priest, had originally been bestowed by the Marquess of Northampton sometime in the Nineteenth Century and has since been in various collections of the Council, most recently at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. The proceeds of the sale were split, with £8 million going to the Council and the remainder to the present-day Marquess of Northampton.

As a disposal from the collection, the sale was said to contravene the UK Museums Association Code of Ethics. The Council then saw its accreditation with that body stripped on 1 August 2014. The Council will be barred from membership for a further five years.

And just this week it has been reported that the Council has been denied a grant from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund for £240,000 intended for a display on shoes (this is Northampton after all). Apparently, the reason for the denial was that the Council was ineligible, no longer being a member of the Museums Association.

The situation does reveal the difficulties that face a cultural institution once its accreditation has been taken away. Although with £8 million in its pocket, the Northampton Borough Council can hardly complain…