With collections of everything from Arts & Crafts furniture to modern footwear, Northampton has plenty of reason to be proud of its museums.
However, they have been placed at risk after a controversial decision by the city’s council to sell an ancient Egyptian figurine that was recently discovered to be worth £2m.
The 76cm (30 in) Sekhemka statuette, made around 2400BC, was brought back to England from Egypt by the second Marquis of Northampton, who donated it to the museum in 1870. It was on public display until August, when its true value was uncovered during an insurance assessment. Northampton borough council swiftly removed the antique from its cabinet to a safe place of storage while deciding its future. The end decision was that the artefact, despite its local history, was not key to the history of the city. With the prohibitive costs of security, the council decided it should be sold and the money put towards other heritage projects.
The decision has angered the museum’s supporters, with local Egyptologist Ruth Thomas warning the sale could lead to the city being expelled from the Museums Association. Gunilla Loe, speaking on behalf of the Friends of Northampton Museum (FNM), added:
“Any sale has to stick to the code of ethics set out by the Museum Association. [The council hasn’t decided] how the money will be spent so it could be used for anything.”
There are many artefacts of local provenance to be found in the museums of Lancashire, such as the antique bookcase made by Robert Gillow for Mary Hutton Rawlinson in 1772. Antique dealers in areas like Preston also have antique bookcases with local provenance.
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