A pioneering Derbyshire County Council project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund and the Museums Association will see new homes being found for up to 2,300 pieces of art and other objects of historical and archaeological interest.
The first item to be re-homed under the new project is a rare William De Morgan vase, which has been transferred by the county council to the De Morgan Collection.
When the vase came into Derbyshire County Council’s possession, it was collected for their Museums Loans Service collection, which toured artwork to schools for for the learning programme. When this service closed last year, the objects were moved to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery to be stored.
The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery successfully applied to the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund (administered by the Museums Association) for a grant to fund a project to source appropriate homes for the pieces, with the main aim of keeping them in the public domain and on public display where at all possible.
The 18-month project is being seen as a test case by the Museums Association (MA), and if successful it could be held up as a model of best practice in adhering to its code of ethics around dispersal of objects.
Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism Councillor Barry Lewis said: “This is an exciting and pioneering project for us to be involved in and we welcome the confidence the Museums Association has placed in us to get this right.
“For a long time museums have been nervous about the disposal of objects so this is an innovative project which will see items ranging from pieces of art to objects of historical, ethnographic and archaeological interest being re-homed in a transparent way, considering what is the best place for the object while ensuring it is not lost to the public where possible.
“In an ideal world we would keep and display all the items at the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, but this just isn’t feasible or practical.
“Across the country, objects of great interest and in some cases great worth, are kept in cupboards, storage or in private collections, and one of the aims of this project is to try to ensure that doesn’t happen with the items in these collections.
“I’m delighted that the first step in this innovative project is to hand over the De Morgan vase, to what feels like its rightful home, where it will take its place in the De Morgan ancestral home as an important part of their exhibition.”
The vase will go on display at Cannon Hall Museum, in the De Morgan Foundation’s galleries, alongside many other wonderful examples of De Morgan ceramics. But unlike anything else on display, or indeed in our collection, this vase has three handles.
It is stamped with his pottery stamp ‘Merton Abbey’, so can be dated to 1882 – 1888, a time when De Morgan has enough staff to throw pots to his specification, meaning the three handles were his idea and intended to complement the repeating eagle motif.
Museums Association Collections Development Officer Sarah Briggs said: “We’re really excited to see such positive results from this Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund project so early on, the team have really hit the ground running.
“This transfer demonstrates the value of undertaking this sort of collections work and this beautiful piece will almost certainly be seen by more people as a result.”