Following the closure of the D.H. Lawrence Heritage Centre in April 2016, the curatorial team at the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum have been involved in reviewing the items that were on display or in stores at the Heritage Centre. The museum tells a very different story to the Heritage Centre, and storage and display areas are limited. We recognise the value in many of the objects, as we have looked after them for many years. Our curators are currently making decisions on whether items can be better looked after elsewhere. But also could they serve the public better in an alternative public domain?
As part of being a responsible museum, Broxtowe Borough Council recognises that in owning the collection of an accredited museum it acts as a long term guardian of collections. However as part of this responsibility the museum should be active in ‘Improving public benefit by refining collections in line with the museum’s statement of purpose.’ (Accreditation Standard 2011). These collections reviews may result in a rationalisation of the collections and potentially removing items from the collection. Refining collections can allow the museum to focus its resources on relevant and significant objects in terms of access, interpretation, conservation and research.
We are getting support from peers in the museum community to assess our recommendations. We will also be directly contacting particular organisations and museums that we want to share this situation with. Particularly those with a D.H. Lawrence or Eastwood connection. We have ensured that our plan has been approved by the Museums Association and Museums Development East Midlands (MDEM). We have also followed best practice in the museum sector.
No one likes to talk about disposing of museum objects. This is part of our duty of care to consider this option and do it correctly and openly. We realise that some donors will have concerns regarding items they have given. Several have already contacted us on learning about the closure of the Heritage Centre. Our first priority, following any decision on disposal from the museum collection, is to keep the objects in the public domain. Other accredited museums will be contacted either directly or via information published in relevant museum publications. If an object is chosen for disposal, and we have the historic donor information available, we will contact the donor directly. If there has been no success in finding an object a new home in the public domain, then donors may choose to have their object returned.
A final list of items that are chosen for rationalisation will be available on request for members of the public. We will publicise this availability on our website with relevant contact information.