Deaccessioning and disposal has become an increasingly important issue for museums. In the fight to stay sustainable, the removal of objects can be an effective solution. However this practice fundamentally questions the purpose of the museum.
This dissertation will explore the debates around this, through the example of a museum that has used disposal to completely redefine its collection. The focus is Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, a small village museum in East Sussex that underwent a £2.3 million redevelopment from 2007 to reopening in 2013. This saw its transformation from an amateur, local museum to a specialised internationally renowned one. The decision to concentrate on one core narrative within the collection, the art and craft history within the village, changed the museum’s identity, and disposal was the tool that enabled this. However what does it mean to remove objects from a museum? Objects are assumed to be collected for perpetuity, but the act of disposal questions this basic purpose of the museum. Using the theories within new museology and material culture studies, this dissertation will explore the impact to the museum and the museum object. To do this it will use the theory of anthropologist Igor Kopytoff to argue that objects have life biographies, and that not only is disposal one part of that biography but it also facilitates a new life for it. This will be explored through three case studies, where objects have been removed from Ditchling Museum to go on to have new lives. Objects had a life before the museum, and the examples will show they can go on to have a new life when they are removed.
BA(Hons) Museum and Heritage Studies
21 Dec 2015