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Effective Collections - Disposals Project at Elmbridge Museum

Gemma and Clare signing disposals paperwork

Museum Contact:  Clara Pereira

The purpose of the Effective Collections project was to provide access to around 3,000 Elmbridge Museum artefacts by offering them for disposal to other museums or locations.

These artefacts had already been identified as either being better suited for outreach projects, such as display, handling and learning sessions; or for disposal, transfer or loan to other more appropriate museums or institutions, due to their insignificance or relevancy to Elmbridge Museum’s mission. 

By disposal, transfer or loan to other more appropriate museums or institutions, the identified collections could then be actively developed further in terms of relevant access and interpretation, thus enhancing the recipient collections.

The project aimed to seek out suitable potential recipient organisations and to offer items that would be better suited to be located in museums and organisations that could make them more available to the public.

In total 417 items were disposed of across a variety of local and national institutions, or deemed to be for waste disposal or recycled.

  What was the impact of the project?

  The project lead was able to apply and develop a range of project management, self -organisation, communication and research and cataloguing skills, as well as negotiating and networking with local institutions and the museum team. The Effective Collections Project Officer worked closely with the Collections Manager and gained valuable experience in collections care, as well as gaining knowledge of the collection which has helped her to gain a permanent part time post at Elmbridge Museum.

The project has enabled the museum to sharpen its understanding of the content, management and care of the collection, and made connections with new partners and institutions. The project has provided us with some new collection data re condition and content, which will enable us to better present the rest of the Collection to the public. We also know that many of the items we have now dispersed to other museums will become part of their displayed collections or exhibitions, thus widening the access of these items to new audiences in other locations.

This project has helped us to see how we will be better able to present our collections in new ways, as part of our overall mission to operate as an outreach museum service by focusing on what we have now and making better use of this.

 What went well?

We successfully transferred items to Dorking Museum, Milford House, Sewerby Hall, Underpinning Museum, University of Brighton, Kingstone Museum and The British Museum.

The whole team were involved in some way in the project, and new contacts and relationships were built with other museums and organisations which will help us as an ‘outreach’ virtual museum needing to work with and connect more with community partners. The project has also enabled us to improve our cataloguing in the original ICMDM spreadsheets and in Master spreadsheet.

 Items were also advertised on Museum blog website, and the project was regularly blogged about as part of profiling the museum on the internet and social media.

What didn’t go so well?

It often took a long time, and required us to work through many different people, to get to the point of a final agreement to make a disposal, which slowed down our capacity to reach the target number of 3000 disposals identified. Often it was the larger institutions that took the longest time to process the documentation and permissions.

The target of 3000 was probably too ambitious, as we did not foresee some of the complex communications and issues around negotiating disposals. Sometimes our lead contact would leave a museum and we would have to start communications again.

Top Tips

Try not to be too ambitious about the volume of objects that you think you can dispose of. It takes a long time to offer and negotiate, and final arrange for the disposal of objects in the museum sector, and requires real energy and capacity to keep the communications going forward.

What are your plans for the future?

We will take the lessons learnt and built this into our Development Plans, and it will become a continuous process under the responsibility of the Collections Officer.

 Cost of Project:  Active Collections SEWS Development Grant Scheme 2016-17 - £3000


Clare and Sue inspecting purses before disposal