Thurrock Museum

Acquiring and disposing of items

We can acquire objects as gifts or by purchase, from individuals or organisations, on the terms set out in our acquisitions and disposals policy. Loans will normally only be accepted for an agreed period and for a specific purpose, such as an exhibition.

We would not normally dispose of items in the museum collection. Items loaned to the museum will be returned at the end of the agreed period.

The acquisition and disposal policy below was approved by the Learning Services Committee on 10 March 1998.

Acquisition and disposal policy

1. The Thurrock Museum collection is essentially of local – Thurrock – archaeology and social history. As of January 1998, it had 3,536 accessions, some of which contain many items – for example, archaeological excavation archives under one main accession number.

The collection has been developed since about 1910, when the Grays Free Library began to collect mainly local objects. Since being formally established as the Thurrock Local History Museum in 1956, a locally-based collecting policy has been followed. As a result, there are very few non-local items in the collection.

The archaeological part of the collection is particularly strong on pre-historic flint implements. There are:

  • Clactonian chopper tools and Acheulian type hand axes, many of them accidental discoveries from local gravel extraction or farming activities
  • good examples of Mesolithic and Neolithic tools
  • some important Bronze Age metalworkers' hoards from Grays, Aveley, and Orsett
  • a group of Bronze Age fired clay loom weights from South Ockendon
  • finds from the East Tilbury Barrow excavation of 1959

There is Iron Age material from the Linford excavation of the 1950s and the important acquisition of a large group of early coinage – about 2,000 coins – of the 1st century BC from Corringham.

The Roman period is well represented with:

  • a local coin hoard from Chadwell
  • the products of a local pottery kiln
  • grave groups, including the West Thurrock Amphora Burial – a cremation and associated vessels contained in an amphora

The important Anglo-Saxon discoveries at Mucking are represented by figures in reproduction Saxon costume and by replicas of objects. The originals were transferred to the British Museum as part of the complete excavation archive.

The later collections – Social history, Agricultural, industrial, and maritime objects – contain some significant material. There are objects representing many aspects of domestic life, products of local manufacturers and traders, items illustrating the history of education and of other local services such as the police and the fire service. There is a good collection of local agricultural implements and a good representation of the important local industries of brick making and cement manufacture.

Local maritime and riverside history is represented by ship models and material relating to barge building, dock work, passenger liners and other topics. There is a small, but significant collection of paintings, drawings and prints collected on a local basis. These illustrate the local landscape, local personalities or are examples of the work of local artists.

There is a large photographic collection of over 10,000 images. While some of these are accessioned items – original prints and negatives – most are copy negatives and record photographs made by museum staff.

There is also a small but historically important Victorian fossil collection, called The Boatman Collection, which was donated to the museum in 1964 and conserved through SEMS. This was acquired as the collection of a local person. The museum does not normally collect geological or natural history material.

2. Thurrock Borough Council undertakes to maintain Thurrock Museum as an institution which collects, documents, preserves, exhibits and interprets material evidence and associated information for the public benefit. This was the Museums Association's definition of a museum from 1984.

3. Thurrock Museum will collect material relating to the geographical area of the Borough of Thurrock. Material of non-Thurrock provenance or lacking Thurrock significance will not normally be collected, with the exception that suitable items of general interest may be collected for the schools collection to be made available for teaching purposes.

This policy is stated in broad terms as the museum wishes to consider all material relevant to life in Thurrock at all archaeological and historical periods up to the present. The museum recognises that its collecting may be limited by various factors. Lack of storage space is a current difficulty and the museum is careful to apply the collecting policy strictly.

Offers of objects are frequently refused on the grounds that they are not local, are too large, are near duplicates, or are in poor condition. Local archaeological finds in small quantities are not refused but excavators are advised that it may not be possible to accept large amounts of archaeological archive.

The possibility of a regional store is being explored through the Museums in Essex Committee and the Essex Curators Group. Material for the main collection may be collected from all archaeological and historical periods, from the earliest times to the present, the main considerations being:

  • its usefulness in illustrating Thurrock life
  • its condition and conservation requirements
  • the availability of space
  • the avoidance of duplication

Acquisition policy will be reviewed at least once every 5 years and will next be reviewed in 2002.

4. Works of Art will be collected only on the basis of local interest and will therefore be limited to local topographical works and the work of local artists. Biological material will not normally be collected.

5. The museum will not acquire, whether by purchase, gift, bequest, or exchange, any object or specimen unless the governing body or responsible officer is satisfied that the museum can acquire a valid title to the item in question and that in particular it has not been acquired in, or exported from, its country of origin – or any intermediate country in which it may have been legally owned – in violation of that country's laws. For the purposes of this paragraph 'country of origin' includes the United Kingdom.

6. So far as biological and geological material is concerned, the museum will not acquire by any direct or indirect means any specimen that has been collected, sold or otherwise transferred in contravention of any national or international wildlife protection or natural history conservation law or treaty of the United Kingdom or any country, except with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority – for example, a British court in the case of a specimen seized from a third party under the Protection of Birds Acts.

7. So far as British or foreign archaeological antiquities – including excavated ceramics – are concerned, in addition to the safeguards under paragraph 5, the museum will not acquire objects in any case where the governing body or responsible officer has reasonable cause to believe that the circumstances of their recovery involved the recent unscientific or intentional destruction or damage of ancient monuments or other known archaeological sites, or involved a failure to disclose the finds to the owner or occupier of the land, or to the proper authorities in the case of possible:

  • treasure – England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • bona vacantia – Scotland

8. By definition, a museum has a long-term purpose and must possess – or intend to acquire – permanent collections in relation to its stated objectives. The governing body accepts the principle that there is a strong presumption against the disposal of any items in the museum's collection except as set out below.

9. In those cases where the museum is legally free to dispose of an item – if this is in doubt, advice will be sought – it is agreed that any decision to sell or otherwise dispose of material from the collections will be taken only after due consideration. Decisions to dispose of items will not be made with the principal aim of generating funds. Once a decision to dispose of an item has been taken, priority will be given to retaining the item within the public domain and with this in view it will be offered first, by exchange, gift or sale to registered museums before disposal to other interested individuals or organisations is considered.

10. In cases in which an arrangement for exchange, gift or sale of material is not being made with an individual Registered museum, the museum community at large will be advised of the intention to dispose of material. This will normally be through an announcement in the Museums Association's Museums Journal and other professional journals if appropriate.

The announcement will indicate the number and nature of the specimens or objects involved, and the basis on which the material will be transferred to another institution. A period of at least two months will be allowed for an interest in acquiring the material to be expressed.

11. A decision to dispose of a specimen or object, whether by exchange, sale, gift or destruction – in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use for the purposes of the collections – will be the responsibility of the governing body of the museum acting on the advice of professional curatorial staff, and not of the curator of the collection acting alone.

Full records will be kept of all such decisions and the item involved and proper arrangements made for the preservation or transfer, as appropriate, of the documentation relating to the items concerned, including photographic records where practicable.

12. Any monies received by the museum governing body from the disposal of items will be applied for the benefit of the collections. This normally means the purchase of further acquisitions, but in exceptional cases improvements relating to the care of collections may be justifiable. Advice on these cases may be sought from the MGC.

13. In collecting archives, including photographs and printed ephemera, the council will be guided by the Code of Practice on Archives for Museums in the United Kingdom. The Museum will aim to meet the standards outlined in the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts' Standards for Record Repositories (1990).

14. Decisions on collecting will take into account the collecting policies of other museums collecting in the same or related area or subject fields. There is no other local authority museum collecting in the geographical area of the borough of Thurrock. The museum has good relationships with other museums in the county and is not in dispute with any of them over collecting areas.

15. Where a museum object has been acquired with the aid of an external funding organisation, permission from that organisation will be sought before the object is deaccessioned or transferred to another museum.

16. Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in very exceptional circumstances, and then only after proper consideration by the governing body of the museum itself, having regard to the interests of other museums.