Sunday, 6 October 2013

One Year On... Saving Sekhemka

One Year On – what happened next in the Save Sekhemka Campaign:

... well, as far as the Save Sekhemka Action Group knows the statue is still at its secret Northampton Borough Council (NBC) location and UNSOLD!

Sadly it is also impossible for a member of the public to view the statue despite several requests. We doubt that this is legal since any member of the public has a right to see any item in a museum collection unless it is too fragile. Sekhemka is not fragile nor are the insurance conditions imposed on NBC by their insurers such that extra security is needed to see it.

The Action Group would rather have the statue, the rest of the Egyptian collection and the Mineral collection back on display in the town’s museums in accordance with the conditions set out in the Deed of Gift of 1880; our campaign will continue until this happens.

The Deed of Gift was published in the June issue of the Museums Journal when Lord Northampton made it available to them. It is still the subject of legal wrangling between Lord Northampton and NBC. 

The Action Group interprets the Deed as either being a Charitable Gift held in trust by NBC for the people of Northampton or a Long Term Loan with Conditions. 

In the first case NBC cannot sell it unless the Charity Commission should be very lenient, in the second the collections would revert to Lord Northampton since NBC has not complied with the conditions. The Action Group has researched all of the above information and ensured that it was made public. We have also alerted the Art Loss Register and the Export Licensing Board to ensure none of the collections go abroad. 

This ALL means that NO reputable auction house will agree to sell either Sekhemka or any part of the collections.

The publicity the Action Group has created has spread and NBC and its actions are now cited worldwide as an example not to be followed. Is this what a town aspiring to city status should be proud of?

One year on ... the Action Group has STOPPED THE SALE and created an impasse for NBC. Not bad for half a dozen people with no funding but fired by enthusiasm and quietly backed by various cultural organisations nationwide. The campaign goes on so please support us, write to your councillor, ask to see the statue and keep an eye on our website ( for the latest developments.

Gunilla Loe
Chair, Save Sekhemka Action Group

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

July 15th 2013 Submission in Support of the Redisplay of Sekhemka

The following statement was delivered at the council meeting on July 15th by SSAG:

"My name is Ruth Thomas and I am deputy Chair of the Save Sekhemka Action Group. I speak in support of the motion to redisplay the statue of Sekhemka.

Northampton Museum needs some good news ! The last year has not been a good one for the museum. The bad publicity surrounding the proposed sale of Sekhemka has given the museum national and international notoriety. The reputation of Northampton Museum has been tarnished.

The reasons put forward by the council for the removal of the statue from display include the expense of insuring it. However, a Freedom of Information request to the council has  revealed that the insurance cover in 2010, the year when Sekhemka was still ondisplay, was actually lower than it had been previously. Furthermore, no additional security arrangements were imposed by the insurers.

The Friends of the Museum have already offered £8,000 towards the purchase of an even more secure display case.

If the morality of the decision to sell were not enough, the legality has now become the key issue. The Deed of Gift of 1880 has strict provisos regarding the collection and preventing its disposal.

For nearly three years the statue of Sekhemka has not been displayed and, even worse, no member of the public has been allowed to see it. This is in contravention of the 1880 Deed of Gift which states that it be “accessible to the public at all proper times”.

This council has been accused of not listening to people. A change of heart would not be regarded as a sign of weakness but an indication that common sense has prevailed. A large body of informed opinion supports the redisplay of Sekhemka – he is now known throughout the world. There is no other object in Northampton Museum which receives such popular attention.

His redisplay would attract many visitors to Northampton Museum from within and outside the town. There would be a vast amount of really good publicity for Northampton Museum and a reawakening of interest in the ancient Egyptian collection - and the Borough Council would be respected for its good judgement."

The motion was defeated. Three people spoke in favour of the redisplay but the motion was defeated by a Conservative majority. The leader of the council David Mackintosh said that the council are determined to auction the statue as soon as possible.

The fight goes on.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Museum Attitudes to Sekhemka

In our campaign to stop the sale of Sekhemka the Action Group has contacted various large and prestigious museums.  We asked them to write in to request a view of the statue for research purposes.  We had hoped for replies or at least some encouragement in our campaign but...
So far we have had three replies:

One from Leicester saying they cannot get involved because they were commissioned by NBC to write a report on the “Significance of Sekhemka”; they cannot let us have a copy because they do not own the copyright.  NBC has refused our FoI request because we have “overspent” our allocated time and money on this subject!

One reply from Birmingham which is positive and they will try to obtain access – thank you and GOOD LUCK!
The final reply came from the British Museum’s Egyptian and Sudan Department. The say  their present research does not include this period of Egypt so they will not ask for access, nor do they wish to get involved due to the iffy ownership.

What about the rest of our UK museums?  Those we have contacted and those yet to be e-mailed – do you not care about this issue?  We know that every museum in the country has funding issues but selling off collections is surely the very LAST resort? Especially if one does not know if one OWNS the object?

No doubt the museum world is glad that a 69 year old grandmother and her colleagues are fighting this battle to set a precedent without endangering museum money BUT you could help!

Please help us by telling us WHERE – in addition to the British Museum and Lord Northampton’s archives – we can find reliable information on the 2nd Marquess’ Egyptian Collection and its “life” in particular the periods 1870 – 1880 and 1880 – 1899.

This may seem a parochial matter but it will ultimately affect ALL of you: Local Authority run establishments as well as the giant trusts. 


Gunilla Loe, Chair

Friday, 1 March 2013

Initial Results of NBC's Consultation on Sekhemka

Recently, some early details regarding the responses to Northampton Borough Council's consultation were made public. This action group have already released full details of their survey available on this site. NBC's results were published here:

Councillor Brandon Eldred claims with elation in this article that a majority of 173 people favour selling Sekehmka and using the money for heritage projects, possibly the Cultural Quarter, and quotes again how far £2m will go.  It seems that NBC and Cllr Eldred have no understanding of the difficulties in selling something to which one cannot claim legal title.

During our campaign we have often queried WHO has title to Sekhemka and now we have been told, as a result of a FoI request, that there have been legal discussions between Lord Northampton and his legal team and NBC’s legal team on the ownership issue. Lord Northampton has since told us that these discussions are now at a temporary halt while NBC takes Counsel’s advice.  (Will the payment for this advice come out of the already meagre museum budget ?) So without proper legal title to the statue it is pointless to speculate on how to spend the eventual sale money.

Another reply to a FoI request has revealed that when NBC’s present insurance provider had the museum collections re-valued in 2010, including the high value of Sekhekma, they did NOT ask for extra display or security measures.  Therefore the statue can and should go back on display for the benefit of the people of Northampton.

Citing security reasons is invalid since the ONLY people who have revealed the value of Sekhemka time and time again in press and local media are NBC staff or NBC Councillors.

The statue was placed in the care of the museums to benefit Northampton’s people, until legal title is established without doubt the Central Museum is where it should be – NOW.

Gunilla Loe, Chair, Save Sekhemka Action Group  and Chair, FNMAG