How NOT to run a museum

Posted filed underEngland, Museums.

Almost 150 artefacts lent to a museum set up to tell the story of Britain’s colonial past may be missing, it has emerged, with some of them having been sold without their owners’ permission, reports The Guardian.

“Trustees of the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, which has now closed, are in talks with about six of the owners about compensation.

Among them is Lord Caldecote, who said he was shocked to find that a 19th-century maritime painting his family had lent to the museum had been sold at auction. [...]

An investigation by BBC’s Inside Out West programme, scheduled to be broadcast on Monday, claims that 144 objects belonging to eight lenders remain missing. They include the oil painting of an East India Company ship, Dunira, by the sailor-turned-artist Thomas Buttersworth.

Caldecote told the Guardian that his late father, an engineer and industrialist, had lent the painting to the museum. After his father’s death, he asked for the painting to be returned.

“I decided I would like the picture back. It turned out the museum had sold the picture through Christie’s. I don’t suppose we’ll be able to get it back again.”

Caldecote said the picture had sentimental value because an ancestor had captained the ship, part of the East India Company’s fleet, and it had been a gift to him. “It was a shock when I found out the painting had gone,” he said.

The painting was sold by Christie’s to the government of Madeira for £61,250 in 2008. The island can be seen in the background of the picture. Neither Christie’s nor the Madeirans realised that there was any issue with the ownership of the painting.”

Read on at The Guardian.

Going, going, gone: among the museum’s ‘lost’ artefacts is Thomas Buttersworth’s painting of the Dunira, which was sold at auction. Photograph: Christie’s

- There is an ongoing dispute between the board of trustees of the museum and its former director, Gareth Griffiths, over missing artefacts.

The Museum Journal reports: “The director of the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (BECM), which closed its Bristol base in 2008 pending a relocation to London, has been dismissed from his post following allegations of the unauthorised disposal of objects from the collection.

Neil Cossons, chairman of the BECM board of trustees, said: “Gareth Griffiths has been dismissed as director of the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum for abuse of his position as director and the unauthorised disposal of museum objects. We’re not in a position to make further comment because of impending police enquiries.”

Museums Journal understands that at least two items from the Commonwealth Institute collection, which was gifted to BECM early 2003, have been disposed of including a 19th-century Maori wooden panel, which was consigned to auction last September at the Dunbar Sloane auction house in New Zealand. ”

Read on at The Museums Journal.

- When Christie’s sold Lord Caldecote’s marine picture in 2008 there was no mention of the of a provenance or the recent museum loan. The picture was simply listed with a special vat consideration attached to it, which would suggest that it had been consigned by a company or a dealer.