Tuesday, 25 September 2012
My name is Ruth Thomas and I am Chair of Northamptonshire Ancient Egyptian Society. I speak both in this role and as a museum professional.
1. One argument which has been advanced as important in the decision to sell off Sekhemka is that it is “not part of Northampton’s heritage”. The statue has strong local connections. The 2nd Marquess of Northampton acquired it and his son lent the statue to the newly opened Northampton Museum. Alwynne Compton, son of the 2nd Marquess was Chair of the first Museum Committee without which Northampton Museum would not exist as it does today. The Northampton family were generous lenders and donors of much of the founding collections of Northampton Museum.
2. Sekhemka has iconic status in Northampton Museum. Until two years ago he had been on display in the museum for longer than any other exhibit, at least ninety years and probably more. The statue is not only a part of ancient Egypt but also an art object and a social history object and has been displayed as such. He is well known to visitors. In fact, such is his importance that he is the icon chosen on Northampton Borough Council’s website to represent the archaeology collections at Northampton Museum.
3. Northampton Museum, like most local museums in the country, has wide ranging collections, and this is its strength. Exhibitions can be varied and pertinent to prevailing interests in society. Sekhemka has been at the centre of various exhibitions devoted to egyptology - always a popular subject with the general public.
4. On a wider point the breadth of Northampton Museum’s collections is what gives it such appeal to local people. The beauty of the art collections, the quality of the ceramics and the antiquity of Sekhemka and the egyptology collection provide an exciting kaleidoscope of our human heritage.
5. Finally, Northampton Museum is not just a shoe museum or even a social history museum of shoe makers in the industry’s active period. If this is the policy of the council then such a museum should be called “The Shoe Museum”. If Northampton Museum specialises only in shoes its appeal will be much more limited especially to local residents who increasingly have less connection with the shoe industry and who need and want a far broader canvas of collections in their local museum.