Acquisition and Disposal policy

Updated on 7 September 2017

On this page
  1. Relationship to other relevant policies/plans of the organisation:
    1. The museum’s statement of purpose is:
      1. Museum Services is responsible for the documentation, conservation, interpretation and accessibility of the University of Dundee’s Museum Collections for the benefit of its staff and students, the general public and researchers further afield. In so doing it aims to improve the cultural life of the University and the city, provide unique learning and teaching resources, aid public engagement with research and increase the University’s reputation locally and internationally.
    2. The University Court will ensure that both acquisition and disposal are carried out openly and with transparency.
    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 University 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 in the museum’s collection.
    4. Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in exceptional circumstances.
    5. 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.
    6. The museum will undertake due diligence and make every effort not to 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.
    7. The museum will not undertake disposal motivated principally by financial reasons.
    8. Please note: throughout this policy, the term ‘University of Dundee’ (normally abridged hereafter as ‘the University’) is taken to include the University’s predecessor institutions (University College, Dundee and Queen’s College, Dundee) and affiliated institutions such as Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee College of Education, etc.).
  2. History of the collections
    1. The University has been collecting works of art, teaching specimens and other museum artefacts since it first opened as University College, Dundee in 1883, but only since 1994 have these been run as a public museum service cared for by a professional Curator within Museum Services, now part of Culture & Information, with the University Court as the museum’s governing body. The University first achieved Registered status for its collections in 1996, and Accreditation in 2008. This new policy has been designed to fit the requirements for a Collections Development Policy demanded by the new Accreditation Standard produced in 2011 and updated in 2014.
  3. An overview of current collections
    1. The main subjects of the University’s museum collections are as follows:
      1. Artefacts or specimens used in teaching or research at the University;
      2. Artefacts or artworks that have been part of the corporate, academic or social life of the University, or that were used or created by current or former staff or students;
      3. Artefacts or specimens gifted or bequeathed to the University specifically because of their historic or artistic significance;
      4. Artefacts or artworks specially commissioned by the University, or purchased in order to enhance the cultural life of staff, students and visitors.
    2. The distinct collections at present are as follows:
      • Alan Woods Bequest: A large collection of contemporary British art (mostly 1980s and 1990s) bequeathed by former Duncan of Jordanstone College lecturer Alan Woods in 2000, including works by Art College staff and students.
      • Anatomy Collection: Wax models, teaching charts and instruments, mostly late 19th and early 20th century. Although the University also has an Anatomy Museum containing human anatomical specimens, this is a teaching collection not under the responsibility of Museum Services.
      • Architecture Collection: Artefacts from the Architecture programme (currently just one item, a 19th-century medal)
      • Archive Collections: Artefacts relating to documentary collections held by the University Archives, principally the Torrance Collection (ethnographic items from Palestine, mostly late 19th and early 20th century) and artworks and objects relating to the Glasite Church (mostly 19th century).
      • Artists’ Book Collection Dundee (abcD): A large collection of artists’ books (mostly British, late 20th and early 21st century) held in the Visual Research Centre and curated by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.
      • Biochemistry Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly mid 20th century.
      • Biological Sciences Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly mid 20th century.
      • Chaplaincy Collection: Various items of silver and sculpture, mostly mid 20th century.
      • Chemistry Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly early to mid 20th century.
      • Civil Engineering Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly mid 20th century.
      • Comics Art Collection: Original comics artwork (mostly Scottish, 20th and 21st century) collected as a research resource for the Comics Studies courses taught by Humanities and DJCAD.
      • Commercial Design Collection: Original design pieces made by artists connected to the University and/or Dundee, principally at Valentine’s.
      • Computing Collection: Teaching and office equipment, mostly late 20th century.
      • D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum: Large collection of zoological specimens, most of which were acquired by Prof D’Arcy Thompson in the 1880s and 1890s. Also teaching charts and models.
      • D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum Art Collection: Artworks (20th and 21st century) inspired by the collections in the Zoology Museum and by the life and career of D’Arcy Thompson.
      • Design Chair Collection: Classic designs from the 19th and 20th centuries.
      • Dental School Collections: Dental instruments, a significant collection of comparative anatomy (animal teeth and jawbones) and various paintings and sculptures, mostly mid 20th century. Jointly owned by NHS Tayside.
      • Duncan of Jordanstone College Collection: A large collection of artworks by students, usually acquired at the annual Diploma/Degree Shows from 1955 onwards. Mostly paintings and drawings but also printmaking, photography, sculpture, video art, textiles, ceramics, jewellery and silver. Also artworks by College staff and some presentation items.
      • Dundee College Collection: A small collection of scientific instruments and teaching equipment used at Dundee College, mostly late 20th century.
      • Education Collection: Art and artefacts belonging to the former Dundee College of Education, including significant pieces of late 20th-century Scottish art.
      • Electrical & Electronic Engineering Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly late 19th and early 20th century.
      • English Collection: A small collection of artworks created by staff from English, 2000s.
      • Fine Art Collections: The University’s main fine art collection of paintings, drawings and prints, mostly Scottish from the 17th century onwards. This includes art acquired by individual schools unless listed elsewhere.
      • Geography Collection: Teaching and research equipment, mostly mid 20th century.
      • Herbarium Collection: A large collection of botanical specimens, mostly comprising the Flora of Angus, 19th and 20th century. Also scientific instruments and teaching charts.
      • Joseph Lee Collection: A large collection of drawings by the Dundee artist and First World War poet.
      • Law Collection: Various artworks (19th century prints) and presentation items (late 20th century).
      • Life Sciences Art Collection: Artworks acquired by the School of Life Sciences, including works originally commissioned for or shown in exhibitions at LifeSpace.
      • Maggie’s Centre Collection: A collection of artworks (19th century up to contemporary) looked after by Museum Services on behalf of the Maggie Keswick Jencks Cancer Caring Centres Trust.
      • Mathematics Collection: Teaching models and other equipment, mostly early 20th century.
      • Mechanical Engineering Collection: Scientific instruments and sectioned aeroplane and car engines, mostly mid 20th century.
      • Media Services Collection: Items of audio-visual equipment used in teaching, mostly late 20th century.
      • Needlework Development Scheme Collection: Embroidery pieces from around the world collected by the NDS 1934-61.
      • Nicoll Collection: A substantial collection of 19th and 20th-century British art gifted by James Nicoll in 1951.
      • Pathology Collection: A collection of nearly 500 human body parts kept as a teaching and research collection in the Pathology department at Ninewells Hospital.
      • Physics Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly late 19th and 20th century.
      • Physiology Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly late 19th and 20th century.
      • Presentation Collection: Miscellaneous collection of items gifted to the University by other institutions, mostly late 20th century.
      • Psychology Collection: Scientific instruments and teaching equipment, mostly late 19th and 20th century.
      • Satellite Receiving Station Collection: A small collection of equipment relating to the station based in the Ewing Building.
      • Scottish Arts Council Bequest: A large collection of Scottish 20th-century printmaking gifted from the SAC collection in 1997.
      • Silver Collection: The University’s presentation silver, including the Mace (presented in 1911) and other ceremonial items, mostly mid 20th century.
      • Tayside Medical History Museum: Medical instruments, pharmaceutical items and other objects relating to the history of healthcare in Tayside from 19th century onwards, including artworks owned by the hospitals and/or inspired by the medical collection. The collection is jointly owned by the University and NHS Tayside.
      • University Collection: Miscellaneous items relating to general University life, including student and staff gowns and medals, mostly 20th century.
      • Visual Research Centre Collection: Artworks created by artists-in-residence and researchers at the VRC, 2000s.
  4. Themes and priorities for future collecting
    1. The museum will continue to add to the University’s collections in order to represent the history of its teaching and research, as well as aspects of its corporate and cultural life (see 3.1 above). Of the collections listed in 3.2, only the following are (by their historical nature) unlikely to be subject to further collecting in the future:
      • Alan Woods Bequest
      • D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Collection
      • Herbarium Collection
      • Needlework Development Scheme Collection
      • Nicoll Collection
      • Scottish Arts Council Bequest
      1. The others are likely to develop as new material becomes available. It is also anticipated that new teaching and research areas will develop at the University, which may lead to the creation of new museum collections.
    2. The Duncan of Jordanstone College Collection will continue to be added to each year by purchase from the annual Degree Show. The Art College will also continue to acquire (and commission) works for Artists’ Book Collection Dundee.
    3. The main Fine Art collection will also continue to develop through the acquisition of works of Scottish art, with an emphasis on painting, drawing and printmaking, and on artists associated with Dundee. The aim is not just to acquire works that have an aesthetic value for display around the campus but also to increase the research value of the collection by making it as representative as possible (given budgetary restrictions) of the history of fine art in Scotland.
    4. The Comics Art Collection will continue to be developed in collaboration with researchers in the School of Humanities and DJCAD, with much of the funding expected to come from Humanities’ budget.
    5. If resources allow, the Design Chair collection will also be developed to ensure its continuing use as a teaching resource for Design and Architecture.
    6. There is unlikely to be further active collecting of natural history specimens for the Herbarium and Zoology Museum, unless historical specimens can be found that were part of the University’s original teaching collections, or that relate to their principal creators, most notably Patrick Geddes and D’Arcy Thompson. However we will actively continue to acquire works of art inspired by these collections, particularly the Zoology Museum Art Collection, following on from a project funded by the Art Fund’s Renew Scheme in 2012-13.
    7. In line with the University’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, future collecting will attempt (where resources allow) to redress any past biases, for example by taking opportunities to acquire material relating to notable female staff or students.
    8. As the collections aim to represent the history of the University and related institutions, most date from the 1880s up to the present day. Future collecting is likely to be mostly from the recent past, as current teaching equipment becomes obsolete. Future acquisitions for the art collections are likely to focus on contemporary work, but notable gaps in the historic collections will be filled as resources allow.
    9. The geographical area to which most of the collections relate can be defined as the premises of the University of Dundee and its related institutions, though many items were originally acquired from much further afield – the Zoology Museum, Design Chairs and Needlework Development Scheme particularly being intended as international collections.
    10. The main Fine Art collection includes works by English and European artists, but mostly comprises Scottish art, and Scotland will continue to be the focus for future collecting, with an emphasis on Dundee artists. However the Zoology Museum Art Collection will look further afield to demonstrate the national and international reach of D’Arcy Thompson’s influence.
    11. The Comics Art Collection will have a particular focus on Dundee’s significant history in comics production but will also broaden out to other significant comics creators in the UK and beyond, mostly from the mid-20th century onwards.
    12. The Tayside Medical History Museum will continue to represent the history of medicine throughout the Tayside region, though the emphasis remains on Dundee.
  5. Themes and priorities for rationalisation and disposal
    1. The University accepts the principle that there is a strong presumption against the disposal of any items in the museum collections. Such actions would only be considered where the items in question represent unnecessary duplication, are in such poor physical condition as to be of no value for research or display purposes, or fall clearly outwith the stated collecting areas of this policy.
    2. The University recognises that the principles on which priorities for rationalisation and disposal are determined will be 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.
    3. Where any rationalisation takes place, the procedures used will meet professional standards. The process will be documented, open and transparent. There will be clear communication with key stakeholders about the outcomes and the process.
    4. During the term of this policy, only the collections of the Tayside Medical History Museum are likely to be considered for possible rationalisation, due to a significant number of duplicate items having being accessioned with no accompanying data.
  6. Legal and ethical framework for acquisition and disposal of items
    1. The University recognises its responsibility to work within the parameters of the Museum Association Code of Ethics when considering acquisition and disposal.
  7. Collecting policies of other museums
    1. The museum will take account of the collecting policies of other museums and other organisations 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 specialism, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and waste of resources.
    2. Specific reference is made to the following museums, whose collecting areas may overlap: The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum and Broughty Castle Museum (run by Leisure & Culture Dundee on behalf of Dundee City Council), Verdant Works and Discovery Point (run by Dundee Heritage Trust), Dundee Museum of Transport and the University of St Andrews Museum Collections.
    3. In the first instance, reference will be made to the Dundee Heritage Organisations Collections Matrix drawn up following a meeting of local museum, archive and library staff in January 2017.
  8. Acquisitions not covered by the policy
    1. Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in very exceptional circumstances, and then only after proper consideration by the University Court, having regard to the interests of other museums
  9. Acquisition
    1. The museum recognises its responsibility, in acquiring additions to the University’s museum collections, to ensure that care of the collections, documentation arrangements and use of the collections will meet the requirements of the Accreditation Standard. It will take into account limitations on collecting imposed by such factors as staffing, storage and care of collection arrangements.
    2. To help advise the Curator in this regard, Deans of Schools will be required to nominate an appropriate member of staff to be the honorary curator of any substantial collection(s) held in those Schools and to assist with the documentation, accommodation and care of these collections.
    3. Proposals for acquisitions must have regard to
    4. the state of the objects to be acquired;
    5. the availability of adequate accommodation, staff and facilities for conservation;
    6. the relevance of the objects to the subject areas listed above;
    7. the desirability of avoiding duplication of similar objects already held in local museums (see 7.2 above);
    8. the availability of valid title to the objects (see 1.6 above and 9.6 and 9.7 below).
    9. For most acquisitions, the Curator is empowered to take decisions on behalf of the University. Where the acquisition of any item would result in significant financial implications in respect of storage, conservation or display, the matter will be referred to the Museum Advisory Committee in the first instance and then if necessary to the University Court for decision.
    10. Items offered to the museum as gifts or bequests will not normally be accepted if they are subject to any restrictive covenant or special conditions, such as that they must be displayed in a particular way. In exceptional circumstances, if the Curator or other University staff feel that the item(s) in question are of over-riding importance, the University Court may be asked to approve the acquisition of a specific item to which conditions are attached. A general exception to this rule will be deemed to exist in respect of restrictive covenants or conditions intended only to assure the permanent protection of the item concerned in the University's museum collections, such as restrictions placed upon any legal powers of disposal that the University Court may have; under such circumstances, it may be reasonably recommended that the University Court accept the gift or bequest in question.
    11. 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).
    12. 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 November 1 2002, the museum will reject any items that have been illicitly traded. The governing body will be guided by the national guidance on the responsible acquisition of cultural property issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2005.
  10. Human remains
    1. As the museum holds or intends to acquire human remains from any period, it will follow the guidelines in the ‘Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Scottish Museums’ issued by Museums Galleries Scotland in 2011.
  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 (including excavated ceramics) in any case where the governing body or responsible officer has any suspicion that the circumstances of their recovery involved a failure to follow the appropriate legal procedures.
    2. In Scotland, under the laws of bona vacantia including Treasure Trove, the Crown has title to all ownerless objects including antiquities, although such material as human remains and environmental samples are not covered by the law of bona vacantia. Scottish material of chance finds and excavation assemblages are offered to museums through the treasure trove process and cannot therefore be legally acquired by means other than by allocation to[museum name]by the Crown. However where the Crown has chosen to forego its title to a portable antiquity or excavation assemblage, a Curator or other responsible person acting on behalf of the[name of governing body], can establish that valid title to the item in question has been acquired by ensuring that a certificate of ‘No Claim’ has been issued on behalf of the Crown.
  13. Exceptions
    1. Any exceptions to the above clauses will only be because the museum is:
      • acting as an externally approved repository of last resort for material of local (UK) origin
      • 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 the statement of principles ‘Spoliation of Works of Art during the Nazi, Holocaust and World War II period’, issued for non-national museums in 1999 by the Museums and Galleries Commission.
  15. The Repatriation and Restitution of objects and human remains
    1. The University Court, acting on the advice of the museum’s professional staff, may take a decision to return human remains (unless covered by the “Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Scottish Museums” issued by MGS in 2011), 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 in 16.1-5 will be followed but the remaining procedures are not appropriate.
    2. The disposal of human remains from museums in Scotland will follow the guidelines in the ‘Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Scottish Museums’ issued by Museums Galleries Scotland in 2011.
    3. The exception to this is that as, in accordance with the procedures of the Anatomy Act (1984) as amended by the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act (2006), the proper disposal of human remains donated under the Anatomy Act is the legal duty of the Licensed Teacher of Anatomy. In exceptional circumstances the Licensed Teacher may be required to dispose of human remains and to have sole responsibility for the decision. The University Court will be informed of the decision and a clearly documented audit trail will be maintained.
  16. Disposal procedures
    1. All disposals will be undertaken with reference to the SPECTRUM Primary Procedures on disposal. As noted in 5.1 above, the University Court accepts the principle that there is a strong presumption against the disposal of any items in the University’s museum collections, and that sound curatorial reasons for disposal must be established before consideration is given to any such disposal.
    2. The University Court 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 museum 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 disposal is motivated by curatorial reasons the procedures outlined below will be followed and the method of disposal may be by gift, sale, exchange or as a last resort - destruction.
    5. The decision to dispose of material from the collections will be taken by the governing body only after full consideration of the reasons for disposal. 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 and the views of stakeholders such as donors, researchers, local and source communities and others served by the museum will also be sought.
    6. A decision to dispose of a specimen or object, whether by gift, exchange, sale or destruction (in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use for the purposes of the collections or for reasons of health and safety), will be the responsibility of the governing body of the museum acting on the advice of professional curatorial staff, if any, and not of the curator or manager of the collection acting alone.
    7. Once a decision to dispose of material 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 or sale, directly to other Accredited Museums likely to be interested in its acquisition.
    8. If the material is not acquired by any Accredited museum to which it was offered as a gift or for sale, then the museum community at large will be advised of the intention to dispose of the material normally through a notice on the MA’s Find an Object web listing service, an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal or in other specialist publications and websites (if appropriate).
    9. The announcement relating to gift or sale will indicate the number and nature of specimens or 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.
    10. Any monies received by the University Court 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 Museums Galleries Scotland.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Disposal by exchange
      1. The nature of disposal by exchange means that the museum will not necessarily be in a position to exchange the material with another Accredited museum. The governing body will therefore ensure that issues relating to accountability and impartiality are carefully considered to avoid undue influence on its decision-making process.
      2. In cases where the governing body wishes for sound curatorial reasons to exchange material directly with Accredited or non-Accredited museums, with other organisations or with individuals, the procedures in paragraphs 16.1-5 will apply.
      3. If the exchange is proposed to be made with a specific Accredited museum, other Accredited museums which collect in the same or related areas will be directly notified of the proposal and their comments will be requested.
      4. If the exchange is proposed with a non-Accredited museum, with another type of organisation or with an individual, the museum will place a notice on the MA’s Find an Object web listing service, or make an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal or in other specialist publications and websites (if appropriate).
      5. Both the notification and announcement must provide information on the number and nature of the specimens or objects involved both in the museum’s collection and those intended to be acquired in exchange. A period of at least two months must be allowed for comments to be received. At the end of this period, the governing body must consider the comments before a final decision on the exchange is made.
    14. Disposal by destruction
      1. If it is not possible to dispose of an object through transfer or sale, the University Court may decide to destroy it.
      2. 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.
      3. Destruction is also an acceptable method of disposal in cases where an object is in extremely poor condition, has high associated health and safety risks or is part of an approved destructive testing request identified in an organisation’s research policy.
      4. Where necessary, specialist advice will be sought to establish the appropriate method of destruction. Health and safety risk assessments will be carried out by trained staff where required.
      5. The destruction of objects should be witnessed by an appropriate member of the museum workforce. In circumstances where this is not possible, for example, the destruction of controlled substances, a police certificate should be obtained and kept in the relevant object history file.
Corporate information category Museums