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  • Chelsea, London

Collections Development Policy

Name of Museum: 

The National Army Museum (NAM)

Name of governing body: 

The Council of the National Army Museum (The Council)

Date on which this policy was approved by governing body:

1 April 2020

Policy review procedure:

The collections development policy will be published and reviewed from time to time, at least once every five years. This Policy supersedes and cancels all earlier and existing policies, practices and customs.

Date at which this policy is due for review:

1 April 2025

Arts Council England (ACE) and the National Archives (TNA) will be notified of any changes to the collections development policy, and the implications of any such changes for the future of existing collections.

1. Introduction

  1. Authority to collect and dispose of property, including Museum objects, is derived from the National Army Museum’s Royal Charter, first issued in 1960 (and most recently updated in 2009). This states that the scope and purpose of the National Army Museum are:
    • To collect, preserve and exhibit objects and records relating to the history and traditions of Our Army
    • To collect, collate and publish information relating to, and to carry out research into, the history and traditions of Our Army
    • To encourage research into, and the accumulation and dissemination of information and knowledge bearing on, the history and traditions of Our Army and all matters connected therewith
    'Our Army' is defined by Her Majesty The Queen in Council as including, 'the Standing Army, Militia, Yeomanry, Volunteers, Territorial Army of the British Islands, Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve of the United Kingdom, Our Predecessors' Army in India and the Armies of the East India Company and the Land Forces of Our and Our Predecessors' possessions beyond the seas'.
  2. The National Army Museum will ensure that both acquisition and disposal are carried out openly and with transparency. It will also ensure, through its collecting activity, that that Museum retains its status as the pre-eminent institution for the study and enjoyment of material culture relating to Our Army.
  3. By definition, the Museum has a long-term purpose and holds collections in trust for the benefit of the public in relation to its stated objectives. The Council of the National Army Museum therefore accepts the principle that sound curatorial reasons must be established before consideration is given to any acquisition to the Collection, or the disposal of any items from the Museum’s Collection.
  4. The Museum recognises its responsibility, when acquiring additions to its collections, to ensure that care of collections, documentation arrangements and use of collections will meet the requirements of the Museum Accreditation Standard. This includes using Spectrum primary procedures for collections management. It will take into account limitations on collecting imposed by such factors as staffing, storage and care of collection arrangements.
  5. The Museum recognises its collections development responsibilities in line with recognised archive sector standards. This includes the accessioning, appraisal, cataloguing and disposal of analogue and digital archival material. The Museum will work within a network of regimental and military archives to ensure that collections are deposited in the most suitable repository.
  6. The Museum will undertake due diligence and make every effort not to acquire, whether by purchase, gift, bequest or exchange, any object unless the Council of the National Army Museum or Director is satisfied that the Museum can acquire a valid title to the item in question. Please see point 6 regarding the Museum’s ethical framework for acquisition and disposals.
  7. In exceptional cases, disposal may be by sale and the procedures outlined below will be followed (see point 16). In this case the Council of the National Army Museum will not undertake disposal unless it can be demonstrated that all the following exceptional circumstances are met in full:
    • the disposal will significantly improve the long-term public benefit derived from the remaining collection
    • the disposal will not be undertaken to generate short-term revenue (for example to meet a budget deficit)
    • the disposal will be undertaken as a last resort after extensive prior consultation with sector bodies has been undertaken
    • the item under consideration lies outside the museum's established core collection
  8. The Museum will not collect objects outside its Royal Charter (159KB) and will not accept items offered on long-term or indefinite loan, as inward loans are only taken for display purposes for finite periods of time.
  9. In addition, the Museum will not normally accept items for the Collection if:
    • they are, or are likely to become, physically dangerous and/or a health and safety hazard or a hazard to other objects within the Collection
    • they are beyond the means of the Museum to conserve, store, document or make accessible to an adequate standard
    • they are accompanied by unduly restrictive conditions
    • they duplicate existing Collection items or open up new avenues for collecting not covered by the existing Collecting Policy.
  10. This policy should be read in conjunction with the Museum’s Institutional Archive Collections Development Policy (see Appendix A) which recognises the importance of the records created by the National Army Museum itself.

2. History of the Collection

The Museum’s Collection is the world’s largest, and most significant, accumulation of artefacts relating the British Army and other Land Forces of the British Crown (including the former Indian Army until 1947). The Collection consists of over one million items, spanning a 600-year period with particular depth and strength for the period c1780-1914. Its geographical remit extends to all parts of the world where British land forces have fought or been stationed.

Although the Museum received its Royal Charter (159KB) on 8 April 1960, the origins of the institution go back to the years just after the Second World War. The amalgamation of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, brought together at Sandhurst a collection of historical items around which a Royal Military Academy Museum was formed. There was an existing network of regimental and corps museums, but it was identified that there was a need to provide a repository for items relating to the pre-1947 Indian Army, the Irish regiments disbanded in 1922, and cavalry regiments which lacked depots at which they could form museums. Appeals for exhibits were published in the newspapers in 1948 and subsequent years, and in late 1949 the Indian Army Memorial Room was opened; followed by cavalry and Irish regiment displays in 1951. By 1958, with thousands of items in a rapidly growing collection, it was felt that then separate collections of Indian, Irish and cavalry relics should be brought together into a single National Army Museum. In 1960 the Royal Charter (159KB) was obtained, and Her Majesty the Queen opened new permanent displays in the former Riding School at Sandhurst on 15 July 1960.

The collections continued to rapidly expand in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1963 the Museum acquired large proportions of the collections held by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). In 1971, the first phase of the current museum building was opened in Chelsea, London, providing additional storage and display facilities. In the early 1980s the NAM's collecting remit was extended to the First and Second World War and beyond. In the 1990s and 2000s a number of major collections were acquired. These included the collections of the Buffs; the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes; the Women's Royal Army Corps; Royal Army Education Corps; the Museum of Army Transport; the Middlesex Regiment; the reference collection of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust; and books from the War Office Library. In 1991 the Soldiers Effects Records were transferred from the National Archives, and in 1999 over 20,000 sealed patterns were acquired from the Ministry of Defence.

In the first decade of the 21st century the Museum focused more on collecting contemporary material relating to the then current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, whilst continuing to augment its older material. In 2013 the Museum acquired the Field Marshal Sir John Lyon Chapple Indian Army Collection of badges and insignia. The Grenadier Guards Archive was transferred to the Museum in 2016 and the Coldstream Guards Archive in 2019. The Museum has also started to rationalise its Collection, focusing on the review of duplicate items, non-military badges and buttons, and vehicles outside its core collecting remit.

3. An overview of existing Collections

  1. The collection of uniform includes over 80,000 items of uniform and other garments dating from the mid-seventeenth century to the present day. Collectively this constitutes one of the world's largest collections of occupational costume.
  2. The collection of fine and decorative art embraces pictorial works of art, together with three-dimensional arts and crafts such as sculpture, ceramics and silver. The collection includes ethnographic and soldier-made craft objects, as well as jewellery and mess ware. In total the collection comprises some 50,000 works on paper, over 700 oil paintings, 1,500 items of silver and 1,600 ceramics.
  3. The collection of medals and badges includes over 20,000 individual medals including 39 Victoria Crosses, and around 50,000 badges and other insignia.
  4. The collection of colours, guidons and flags numbers nearly 1,200 items, including very rare examples from the English Civil Wars (1642-49), and French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1783-1815.
  5. The collection of weapons covers those used by the British soldier from the age of the longbow to the present day, and includes around 2,400 edged weapons, over 250 polearms, and over 1,700 firearms. A small representative collection of Artillery is also included in this category.
  6. The collection of equipment includes in excess of 16,000 items of personal equipment, scientific instruments, models and dioramas, medical equipment, musical instruments, armour and horse furniture.
  7. The vehicle collection numbers around 40 items, ranging from motorcycles and armoured vehicles to large trucks and primarily relates around the theme of transport and logistics.
  8. The Museum's collection of archives, photographs, film and sound contains tens of thousands of private, regimental and business papers illustrating more than five centuries of British military history. The photographic collection comprises an estimated 500,000 images dating from the 1840s to the present day. The film collection is composed mainly of unofficial footage taken by soldiers and their families from the 1930s onwards. The sound collection holds recordings (dating from the 1920s onwards) of British Army and military bands, and over 750 oral history recordings. The Museum holds archival material including documents, sound recordings, photographs and film in both physical and digital formats. It is also a Place of Deposit for Public Records. The Museum maintains a separate Institutional Archive.
  9. The collection of printed books is the largest in its field readily accessible to the general public. The library administers over 58,000 volumes published since the early sixteenth century, which include extensive holdings of regimental histories, campaign histories, biographies, Army Lists and other official publications. In addition, the Museum holds over 1000 periodical titles. The Museum provides access to a number of online resources through the Templer Study Centre such as JSTOR and Ancestry.
  10. The collections include small numbers of items relating to foreign armies used for comparative purposes. The Museum will continue to collect material relating to foreign armies with a clear comparative role and high potential for display and/or research.
  11. The Museum also holds a handling collection managed by the Learning Department. Although the items belong to the Council of the National Army Museum, they are not bound by this Policy.

4. Themes and priorities for future collecting

  1. The proactive development of collections is paramount to ensure that the Museum reflects the complexity of the army and its place in British society. It will ensure that Museum collects and preserves tangible and intangible material that can be by its nature 'throw away' and may otherwise be lost. In all instances, items offered to the Collection (whether by donation or sale) will be judged against their potential display, research and educational value.
  2. The existing Collection has particular strengths and depth in the period c1780-1914. Attempts will be made to increase coverage of people and places considered under-represented in the collection, including scarce material relating to low-ranking and ordinary soldiers; Indian and colonial soldiers. Similarly, material relating to central Africa, central America and the West Indies, China, the Malayan peninsula, and Australasia will be sought. In addition, in order to be more representative of Our Army, the Museum is seeking to collect material relating to diverse communities serving in the British Army.
  3. The Museum will maintain a live list of acquisition priorities (Appendix C) for the internal use and guidance. Future collecting identified for specific areas of the Collection include:

    Fine and decorative art: high-quality oil paintings of important personalities; especially from the period prior to 1780; works relating to military topography and surveying; soldier art from all periods; works of art by non-European and female artists.

    Uniforms: items that complement or complete examples of existing parts of uniform in the collection; and also uniform issued in the last five to ten years, including ceremonial uniform.

    Medals and badges: medal groups of Indian soldiers of the Indian Army; issued campaign medals for recent and current operations, including the Operational Service Medals; medal groups representing operational gallantry post 1992. Also, examples of current regimental badges and cloth insignia.

    Weapons: type examples of firearms issued to British soldiers. Wherever possible these should be examples with provenance and service history. Where relevant, regimentally marked examples will always take priority.

    Equipment: in addition to weapons, the Museum will also continue to collect examples of the equipment used by British soldiers, both historic and contemporary. Wherever possible these should be examples with provenance and service history.

    Vehicles: the Museum will prioritise the acquisition of vehicles that are not held by other museums, and strengthen the existing themes represented in the current collection. Considerations such as the likelihood of display and storage implications will be particularly relevant in the consideration of any vehicle acquisition.

    Printed books: up to date copies of Queen’s Regulations and current manuals of military law and similar publications; early examples of Army Acts and Mutiny Acts. As part of its function as a reference library on the history of Our Army, the Museum seeks to acquire modern reference books as well as historic and rare publications, including those which date from before 1851. The Museum will maintain subscriptions for print-only access to a range of relevant periodicals and will continue to provide access to a selection of online research resources.

    Archives, photographs, film and sound: material that complements or completes existing collections, enabling the Museum to consolidate its position as the leading repository for papers relating to the British Army of the nineteenth century; and material relating to the post-1945 British Army. The Museum will prioritise original items, particularly where there is a likelihood that they will be displayed. It will also prioritise acquiring entire mixed media collections which provide a fuller insight into an individual soldier’s story. The Museum may accept Public Records as a Place of Deposit. Offers of official Army records will be considered subject to guidance from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) records review team. Acquisition of public records will be made, subject to the direction of The National Archives (TNA). The Museum will continue to collect archival material in physical and born digital formats and in accordance with the principles and priorities set out in this policy and the Digital Preservation Policy (see Appendix B). The Museum will consider the display potential of low-resolution images and will endeavour to obtain high-resolution images where possible. If digital preservation requirements dictate migration to a new format, the Museum will do so, unless this is prohibited by the terms of acquisition. The challenges associated with digital collections should not preclude the Museum from collecting them since the Museum’s internal policies are rigorous enough to accommodate them.
  4. As the existing collection contains regimental collections previously acquired by the Museum (such as those relating to the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment, the Middlesex Regiment, the Women's Royal Army Corps and the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards Archive Collections) and those that do not exist elsewhere (such as the Indian Army), additional consideration will be given to offers of donation or acquisition that relate to these collections.
  5. Targeted collecting will continue to be part of the Museum’s on-going work, and future collecting areas will be decided by the Assistant Director (Collections and Programme) as part of the Museum’s strategic activity. Projects will include collecting relating to Army 2020 and continuing to acquire objects that relate to the relationship between the British Army and British society.

5. Themes and priorities for rationalisation and disposal

  1. Priorities for rationalisation and disposal will be determined through a formal review process that identifies which collections are included and excluded from the review. The outcome of review and any subsequent rationalisation will not reduce the quality or significance of the collection and will result in a more useable, well-managed collection.
  2. The procedures used will meet professional Spectrum Standards and comply with the Museums Association Code of Ethics and Disposals Toolkit. The process will be documented, open and transparent. There will be clear communication with key stakeholders about the outcomes and the process.

6. Legal and ethical framework for acquisition and disposal of items

  1. The Museum recognises its responsibility to work within the parameters of the following legislation, guidelines and treaties when considering acquisition and disposal of items:
    • Royal Charter of the National Army Museum
    • Museums Association Code of Ethics
    • ICOM Code of Ethics
    • Statement of Principles issued by the NMDC on ‘spoliation of works of art during the Holocaust and World War II Period in 1988’
    • Combating illicit trade: Due Diligence Guidelines for Museums, Libraries and Archives on collecting and borrowing Cultural Materials (DCMS, October 2005)
    • UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the illicit Import, Export and transfer of Cultural Property
    • Spectrum: UK Museum Documentation Standard
    • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 1973
    • ICOM Red Lists of Cultural Objects at Risk
    • Cultural Property (Armed Conflict) Act 2017
    Furthermore, it will:
    • conduct due diligence to verify the ownership of any item prior to acquisition, loan, or disposal and that the current holder is legitimately able to transfer title or to loan.
    • reject any item for acquisition or loan if there is any suspicion that it was wrongfully taken during a time of conflict, stolen, illicitly exported or illicitly traded, unless explicitly allowed by treaties or other agreements, or where the museum is co-operating with attempts to establish the identity of the rightful owner(s) of an item.

​​​​​7. Collecting policies of other institutions

  1. The Museum will take into account the collecting policies of other museums, libraries and archives collecting in the same or related areas or subject fields. It will consult with these organisations where conflicts of interest may arise or to define areas of specialisms, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and waste of resources. The Museum will avoid competing knowingly at auction with Regimental or Corps museums, or with any other publicly funded museums, galleries, libraries or archives.
    • British Library
    • Imperial War Museums
    • National Museum of Ireland
    • National Portrait Gallery
    • Scottish National Portrait Gallery
    • National War Museum of Scotland
    • National Museum of the Royal Navy
    • National Museum Wales
    • Regimental and Corps Museums
    • Royal Air Force Museum
    • Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
    • University of Southampton
    • Churchill Archives Centre
    • The MOD

8. Archival holdings

  1. The Museum will maintain Archive Service Accreditation and follow its requirements. Archives will be cared for in line with current best practice and other relevant standards as appropriate. This includes the Code of Practice on Archives for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom (3rd edition, 2002).

9. Acquisition

  1. The Museum aims to be the best possible repository for collections of national and international importance relating to the history of 'Our Army', as defined in the Museum's Royal Charter (159KB).
  2. The Museum shall be the proper and sole judge when deciding whether objects should be acquired for the collection. With the exception of objects or collections of greater extent than ten cubic metres, 30 linear metres or valued at more than £50,000, the Council of the National Army Museum has delegated to the Director the collecting, including purchasing, and disposing of items in accordance with this Policy. On a day-to-day basis, decisions relating to the acquisition of new material for the collection will be taken by the Collections Development Group (CDG). This cross-departmental group will meet regularly under the chairmanship of the Assistant Director (Collections and Programme). He or she has the right to cast the deciding vote in the unlikely event a consensus is not reached. All decisions will be minuted and archived. They will be available to staff on the Museum’s intranet. The acquisition of collections or individual items which are greater than ten cubic metres, 30 linear metres or valued at more than £50,000 will require the approval of the CDG and the Museum’s Collections and Research Committee.

    In making its decisions on acquisition proposals, the Museum’s Collections and Research Committee will assess the objects against the following criteria:
    • Rarity - is the object represented in the existing collection and is it likely that the Museum would be offered one as a gift or bequest?
    • Quality - is the object the best of its kind or is it likely that the Museum will be offered a better example in the future?
    • Context - does the object make a significant contribution to our understanding of Our Army as described in the Royal Charter or provide links or new ways to understand existing collections?
    • Display, education or research potential - can the object be used to connect visitors or researcher with the themes and purpose of the Museum?
  3. The Museum is able to receive collection material direct from the MOD under the current provisions of the MOD gifting scheme. However, archives are not covered by this scheme and are considered under different arrangements. As the Museum is directly funded by MOD for the purpose of telling the story of the Army, the Museum seeks to strengthen this relationship so that it is the Museum of choice to which the Army will transfer material.
  4. If examples of uniform, weapons and equipment which have been used by serving soldiers are not available, approaches will be made directly to manufacturers for equivalents. Should there be a need to acquire contemporary examples before one can be sourced through official channels via the Army, for example in order to go on display, approaches will be made to secure either a loan from the Army or the manufacturers.
  5. In particular, the Museum will not acquire any object or specimen unless it is satisfied that the object or specimen 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. In accordance with the provisions of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which the UK ratified with effect from 1 November 2002, and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, the Museum will reject any items that have been illicitly traded. The Council and Director will be guided by the national guidance on the responsible acquisition of cultural property issued by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2005, and any subsequent editions or relevant legislation.
  7. All objects donated to or purchased by the National Army Museum become the absolute property of Council of the National Army Museum, whether formally accessioned or not. Every effort will be made to acquire the intellectual property rights (where these still exist) in objects at the time of acquisition.
  8. The Council reserves the right to require a ‘dowry’ of money, staff or premises (or any combination thereof) as a condition of accepting any item or items for the collection. Any such terms and conditions will be determined by the Council of the National Army Museum.
  9. In the interests of propriety, objects will never be purchased for the Collection from serving Members of the National Army Museum’s Council, honorary officers, serving members of the staff, volunteers, trainees, interns, contractors, serving Trustees of the Museum’s Development Trust, and serving officers of the Museum‘s Members Advisory Committee, former officers and Council Members of the Society of Friends of the Museum, or partners or business associates of any of the above. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, a period of three years will run from the date that a person ceases to be in any of the above categories before the Museum will consider purchasing items from them. In exceptional circumstance the Collections and Research Committee may decide to waive this.
  10. On occasion the specific commissioning of works of art or photography will take place in order to support the Museum’s strategic activity, which may then be accessioned into the collection. The Museum will secure copyright as part of the commission wherever possible.
  11. Potential acquisitions of printed books and journals will be managed by the Head of Academic Access rather than being brought to the Collections Development Group. However, decisions relating to the acquisition of rare and special books, including those which date from before 1851, will usually be taken by the CDG.

10. Human remains

  1. The Museum holds objects with stains, bullet holes and shrapnel tears which may well contain human tissue less than 100 years old. In addition, it holds the fingers and toes of Major Lane (NAM. 2000-10-208-1 & -2), for which a licence will become necessary upon the death of Major Lane. The Museum will work towards obtaining a Human Tissue licence in line with the ‘Guidance for the care of human remains in museums’ issued by DCMS in 2005 and the Code of Ethics.

11. Biological and geological material

  1. 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 other country, except with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority.

12. Archaeological material

  1. The Museum will not acquire archaeological material in any case where the Council of the National Army Museum or the Director has any suspicion that the circumstances of their recovery involved a failure to follow the appropriate legal procedures.
  2. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales the procedures include reporting finds to the landowner or occupier of the land and to the proper authorities in the case of possible treasure (i.e. the Coroner for Treasure) as set out in the Treasure Act 1996 (as amended by the Coroners & Justice Act 2009).

13. Exceptions

  1. Any exceptions to the above clauses will only be because the Museum is either:
    • acting as an externally approved repository of last resort for material of local (UK) origin; or
    • acting with the permission of authorities with the requisite jurisdiction in the country of origin.
    In these cases the Museum will be open and transparent in the way it makes decisions and will act only with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority. The Museum will document when these exceptions occur.

14. Spoliation

  1. The Museum will use ‘Spoliation of Works of Art during the Holocaust and World War II period: Statement of Principles and Proposed Actions’, issued by the National Museum Directors’ Conference in 1998, and report on them in accordance with the guidelines and any subsequent editions thereof. Prompt and serious consideration will be given to claims that an item in the collection was spoliated during the Nazi persecutions of 1933-45. Measures will be taken to provide restitution to the legal owner or otherwise settle the claim, acting on appropriate expert and legal advice. The Council of the National Army Museum will be informed of all such requests and of their outcome.

15. Repatriation and Restitution of objects and human remains

  1. The Council of the National Army Museum, acting on the advice of the Director and Assistant Director (Collections and Programme), may take a decision to return human remains (unless covered by the ‘Guidance for the care of human remains in museums’ issued by DCMS in 2005), objects or specimens to a country or people of origin. The Museum will take such decisions on a case-by-case basis, within its legal position and taking into account all ethical implications and available guidance. This will mean that the procedures described below in Section 16. will be followed but the remaining procedures are not appropriate.
  2. The Museum has an extensive ethnographic collection composed of objects acquired from across the globe. It should therefore be acknowledged that parts of the collection may be subject to claims for restitution or repatriation at any time, and that the Museum must be reactive and responsive to these.
  3. Requests for restitution and repatriation of accessioned objects should be made in writing to the Assistant Director (Collections and Programmes). Research will be undertaken by the Head of Collections Standards and Care and/or relevant Senior Curator to ascertain the possibility of restitution with due consideration to legal and ethical issues. In many cases this will involve the appropriate expert advice from relevant communities, the Ministry of Defence, Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  4. All requests will be treated with respect and sensitivity in line with National and international guidelines. The restitution of human remains from museums in England, Northern Ireland and Wales will follow the procedures in the ‘Guidance for the care of human remains in museums’ . The Museum will treat requests on a case by case basis and all relevant correspondence and documentation will be stored on the Museum’s shared drive. Requests will be presented to the CDG for discussion if approved it will be discussed at Collections and Research Committee who will make the relevant recommendation to The Council of the National Army Museum.
  5. Where a restitution is agreed the Museum will follow the collection disposals procedures sensitively.

16. Disposal procedures

By definition, the Museum has a long-term purpose and holds collections in trust for society in relation to its stated objectives. The Council of the National Army Museum therefore accepts the principle that sound curatorial and/or conservation reasons for disposal must be established before consideration is given to the disposal of any objects from the Museum’s collections. Any such review will be conducted in line with Spectrum review and disposals procedures and with reference to the Museums Association’s Disposals Toolkit. It is necessary periodically to assess the continuing relevance of objects in the collections to ensure that they fall within the Royal Charter (159KB) and this policy..

The following procedures only relate to accessioned collections which are the legal property of the Council of the National Army Museum. The Council does not have authority to dispose of objects owned by third parties (i.e. loans) or any accessioned objects where the Museum’s legal title is uncertain. All disposals will be undertaken with reference to the Museum’s disposals procedure and this policy.

  1. Before undertaking the disposal of the object, the intended outcomes of the process will be considered and articulated. The reasons for considering disposal will be when an item:
    • does not fall within the terms of the Royal Charter and/or this Policy, or is unsuitable for retention for other curatorial reasons
    • has deteriorated beyond economic repair
    • is dangerous, and/or has become a health and safety hazard or a hazard to other objects within the collections
    • has been found to be a duplicate, where the terms of acquisition permit the disposal of one example when an individual or organisation has better legal title than the Council of the National Army Museum.
  2. The Council of the National Army Museum will confirm that it is legally free to dispose of an item. Agreements on disposal made with donors will also be taken into account.
  3. When disposal of a Museum object is being considered, the relevant curator and registrar will establish if it was acquired with the aid of an external funding organisation. In such cases, any conditions attached to the original grant will be followed. This may include repayment of the original grant and a proportion of the proceeds if the item is disposed of by sale.
  4. When disposing of objects from the Collection, the Museum’s Deaccessioning and Disposal Procedures will be followed. The method of disposal may be by gift, sale or as a last resort – destruction (in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use for the purposes of the collection or for reasons of health and safety). Any recommendation to dispose of an object will be presented to CDG for approval before being submitted to the Collections and Research Committee for consideration. A final decision will be the responsibility of the Director. The signatures of the Chair of the Collections and Research Committee, the Director, Assistant Director (Collections and Programme) and the Registrar will be required on each Disposal Proposal Form.
  5. The decision to dispose of objects from the collections will be taken by the Director only after full consideration of the relevant documentation of the reasons for disposal in line with this policy. Other factors including public benefit, the implications for the Museum’s collections and collections held by museums and other organisations collecting the same material or in related fields will be considered. Expert advice will be obtained when required and the views of stakeholders such as donors, researchers, local and source communities and others served by the Museum will also be sought.
  6. Once a decision to dispose of objects in the collection has been taken, priority will be given to retaining it within the public domain. It will therefore be offered in the first instance, by gift, directly to other Accredited museums. Disposal by sale is a last resort.
  7. If the object is not acquired by any Accredited museum to which it was offered as a gift or for sale, then the Museum will advertise its intention to dispose of the object through the Museums Association’s ‘Find an Object’ webpage, an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal or in other specialist publications and websites (if appropriate).
  8. The announcement relating to gift or sale will indicate the number and nature of the objects involved, and the basis on which the material will be transferred to another institution. Preference will be given to expressions of interest from other Accredited Museums. A period of at least two months will be allowed for an interest in acquiring the material to be expressed. At the end of this period, if no expressions of interest have been received, the Museum may consider disposing of the material to other interested individuals and organisations giving priority to organisations in the public domain.
  9. Any monies received by the Museum governing body from the disposal of items will be applied solely and directly for the benefit of the collections. This normally means the purchase of further acquisitions. In exceptional cases, improvements relating to the care of collections in order to meet or exceed Accreditation requirements relating to the risk of damage to and deterioration of the collections may be justifiable. Any monies received in compensation for the damage, loss or destruction of items will be applied in the same way. Advice on those cases where the monies are intended to be used for the care of collections will be sought from the Arts Council England. The proceeds of a sale will be allocated so it can be demonstrated that they are spent in a manner compatible with the requirements of the Accreditation standard. Money must be restricted to the long-term sustainability, use and development of the collection.
  10. The Museum will not dispose of items by exchange. If it is not possible to dispose of an object through gift or sale, the Council of the National Army Museum may decide to destroy it. It is acceptable to destroy material of low intrinsic significance (duplicate mass-produced articles or common specimens which lack significant provenance) where no alternative method of disposal can be found. Destruction is also an acceptable method of disposal in cases where an object is in extremely poor condition or has high associated health and safety risks. Where necessary, specialist advice will be sought to establish the appropriate method of destruction. Health and Safety risk assessments will be carried out by the Head of Collections Standards and Care where required. The destruction of objects will be witnessed by an appropriate member of staff. In circumstances where this is not possible, e.g. the destruction of controlled substances or firearms, a police certificate will be obtained and kept with the Disposal paperwork. Similarly, objects which pose a risk to health, such as those containing asbestos, will be removed and disposed of by specialised, external contractors. In such cases the Museum will obtain signed paperwork for the removal of the object and confirmation in writing of its destruction.
  11. Full records will be kept of all decisions on disposals and the items involved and proper arrangements made for the preservation and/or transfer, as appropriate, of the documentation relating to the items concerned, including photographic records where practicable in accordance with Spectrum Procedure on deaccession and disposal. These will be saved in the museums institutional archive, on the CMS and in CDG minutes.
  12. Serving Members of the National Army Museum Council, Honorary Officers, serving members of the Museum’s staff, serving trustees of the Museum’s Development Trust, volunteers, trainees, interns, contractors (unless on behalf of new owner or for secure destruction) and serving Officers and Council Members of the National Army Museum Membership scheme, or partners or business associates of any of the above will not be permitted to acquire, by purchase or otherwise, objects that have been de-accessioned or otherwise disposed of (if not formally accessioned) directly from the Museum collections.


  1. Institutional Archive Collections Development Policy
  2. Digital Preservation Policy
  3. Live List of Current Acquisition Priorities (internal document)

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