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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.