On the front page of today's Isle of Thanet Gazette (01/10/10) the headline is about the proposed sale of antiques by the Ramsgate Town Council. The article by Saul Leese starts "Expensive antiques given to Ramsgate Town Council will be sold off if no one can lay claim to them." and then the article gives details on some of the items to be sold off. In other words it is further admission to my theories that all records kept on art and artefacts kept in the Thanet towns prior to local government reorganisation in 1974 have been poorly kept or have been "lost". Obviously no modern day elected politician is responsible but on the other hand no council officer or member will freely admit it, making the issue of Thanet's Art and Artefacts bit of a crusade of mine.
The article also raises the debate on the sale of Art and Artefacts by local Councils. Over the past few years I have looked into the issue of civic collections and researched into how the whole issue surrounding art and artefacts has come about in Thanet. Prior to local government reorganisation in 1974 Art and Artefacts fell into two categories under local government management. There was the Civic collection made up of the town silver, the history and potraits of Mayors and gifts to the town etc., then there was a public funded Museum and Library service. When the local government reorganisation came about the Civic collection became the property of the Charter Trustees and the Library and Museum service was divided up between KCC ,TDC and the newly formed Charter Trustees. In Ramsgate this was easy because the Library and Museum were housed in the same building and was transferred to KCC . The Civic collection and contents of Albion House were transferred to the Charter Trustees and TDC became the legal owners of the Albion House building and owners of some of Ramsgate artwork.
From then on KCC managed the library under its county wide libraries policy and in the absence of a Museums policy the Museum at Ramsgate the library became a static exhibition. I should also mention the Ramsgate Artwork inherited by TDC was added to the TDC collection and then managed through its Museum service.
To my knowledge like the Towns Council civic collections before them both the Ramsgate and Margate Charter Trustees did not accept loans into civic collection but they did accept Civic gifts and memorabilia from other towns and organisations, building up collections.
So what is my view of the current situation. Well, I expect nobody has contacted the Ramsgate Town Council about the furniture because I suspect it has been there many many years and when it was acquired it was probably just furniture. So should they sell it ?
Personally I think all tiers of local government should really re examing the issue of Art and Artefacts and their collections policy asking themselves where do we start and where do we end, what is the provenance and do they really need to keep it. So if a item has no local historical ties and is surplus to requirement then they should sell it. After all, what the Ramsgate Town Council has on its books is small fry compared to the TDC collection which over the years has become a appreciating asset.