The members of the Save Sekhemka Action Group which campaigned to prevent the sale of the statue of the Old Kingdom statue of the Egyptian Court Scribe, Sekhemka by Northampton Borough Council and the Marquis of Northampton, have issued a statement announcing that the group is winding up the active phase of the campaign and switching to a monitoring and reporting any future developments.
Given the significance of the Sekhemka issue and the passions it has aroused in the archaeological and museum community internationally thePipeLine has decided that the statement is worth quoting in full, without further commentary.
THE FAREWELL OF THE SAVE SEKHEMKA ACTION GROUP
Photograph Copyright: thePipeLine
On 10 July 2014 the Sekhemka Statue was sold to an unknown buyer at Christie’s for a gross sum of
£16m. The Action group still does not know who the buyer is or to which country the statue will go.
This sale took place despite the Action Group’s two year campaign to stop it, a campaign that did
attract support from ordinary Northampton people as well as eminent academic and museum
During our campaign we pointed out time and again the consequences of a sale for Northampton
Borough Council (NBC) and its museums. These warnings were ignored by the NBC Cabinet and its
Leader, Cllr David Mackintosh, and by the Chief Executive, David Kennedy, and the Director of
Cultural and Customer Services, Julie Seddon.
The Museums have lost their Accreditation and membership of the Museums Association (MA)
which means that they will no longer be able to receive outside funding from Arts Council England
(ACE) or the Heritage Lottery Fund; this is demoralising for the museum staff and places the
possibility of the extension to the Central Museum in jeopardy.
The Action Group has reached the end of the road, there are no further effective actions we can
take. However, as a result of our campaigning ACE and the MA are looking at strengthening the
rules on the disposal of museum collections and the ethical responsibilities of Local Authorities who
have museums in their care; the academic world is debating their role in caring for collections.
The Action Group will keep its website and face book page open and UPDATED on ALL
developments. We are also supporting research by various Egyptian institutions regarding the
legality of the 2 nd Marquess of Northampton’s purchase and export of the statue in 1850; was it in
accordance with the then Egyptian laws on antique artefacts since there is, as far as we know, no
documentation on this in the UK? If the purchase and export of Sekhemka can be proved to be illegal
the Egyptian authorities would like the statue repatriated – an outcome the Action Group would
welcome unless a major British museum would act as a custodian on behalf of Egypt.
The members of the Action Group are sad that our two years of work did not have a more positive
outcome; we are very grateful for all the support given by the public, the museum world, ACE and
the MA and we fervently hope that our disappointment will not result in other action groups holding
back in their campaigns – go for it and think positively.
Chair of the Save Sekhemka Action Group
Northampton 30 October 2014