Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Summing up.

On the 23rd April 2013 the Thanet District Council overview and scrutiny will be meeting. On the agenda my concerns over the management of TDC art and artifact holdings will be discussed. I have listed below a summary of events and my findings. Each item listed below is backed by research, old TDC documentation, my experiences and emails I have received.
  • Prior to 1974  Borough of Margate "owns" a collection consisting of 13,867 items of which 9,251 are prints and illustrations and 288 original works of art. Artifacts, archeological and natural history items are not included in this total. 10,422 items of the total are from the Parker collection purchased by the Borough in 1929. 2075 items are from the bequest of Dr Arthur Walton Rowe acquired in 1926. 
  • The 1974 local government reorganization sees the collection broken up and distributed between Kent County Council, Thanet District Council and the Margate Charter Trustees.
  • The library collection goes to Kent County Council, Thanet District Council takes ownership of the Tudor House museum and items in out lying council buildings. The Margate Charter Trustees take ownership of civic items in the old town hall.
  • Between 1974 to 1976 Kent County Council keep the items they require and  TDC receive something in the region of 500 framed prints and pictures from KCC. To date there is no evidence of a paper trail of this transfer.It is found that former Borough of Margate records are inaccurate and in some cases non existent for these items.
  • All items received by TDC are stored at the old town hall police station. Items are also distributed to the new Thanet District Council offices, Northdown House, Albion House, Hartsdown House, the Winter Gardens and the Tudor House museum. 
  • In 1983 TDC commission a feasibility study for opening a museum at Margate. The report highlights many problems with the collection like poor record keeping and serious conservation issues. An immediate audit is recommended in the study.
  • In 1985 under a Manpower Services Commission project  trained staff undertake an audit  and catalogue unlisted items in the Margate museum. 5,000 unlisted  photographs , negatives and some glass negative plates are  added to the  collection.
  • In 1987 the Margate museum is opened and the audit of the collection is not completed.All the items on display at the Museum are cataloged.
  • In 1990 the then Museums officer carrying out the audit of the collection reports to TDC that items are missing, the records they are working to are inaccurate, there are unlisted items and there are serious concerns about the conservation of artifacts. The then Museum officer estimates it will take at least 15 years to properly identify and  list every individual item onto a data base.
  • 1991 TDC pass a acquisition, disposal and collection policy signed off by the chief executive.
  • In 1994 the East Kent Maritime Trust take over the management of Margate museum. The EKMT are grant funded by TDC to run the Margate museum and the Maritime Museum at Ramsgate. The grant does not enable the EKMT to employ the specialist staff as recommended in the 1983 feasibility document.
  • 1998 the EKMT continue to catalogue the collection and paper records are transferred to a data base. The EKMT acquire items into the collection under their own collecting policy and issue paperwork accordingly.
  • 2005, errors are found in the EKMT system such as unlisted and missing items. Items belonging to TDC are discovered at an outside venue that are unlisted. Unlisted items from other closed council venues arrive at the Margate museum to be stored , some are in poor condition. They are stored unlisted.
  • 2006 I became concerned at the collapse of any managed system with the collection and it was becoming clear the TDC collection outside the museum was also in disarray along with  newly acquired EKMT items.
  • June 2006 I expressed concerns about inaccuracies  to TDC and requested a FOI request for the records of the collection. I met with TDC leadership expressing my concerns and was told the FOI request was refused.I was also told the collection met all criteria.
  • 2007 I then researched the collection independently noting many discrepancies  as more items TDC items returning to the collection are found unlisted. In 2008 the museum closed and loans were returned. However donations were also returned.
  • In 2011 the museum reopened and I joined the friends group. I was able to get access to many areas of the museum. The museum had remained dormant from 2008 to 2011 and during that time no audit took place of the collection after 14 years of EKMT management. In one of the rooms items were piled high in racks and in boxes even cupboards were stuffed full and there was no managed system to where anything was or came from. Items were found to be suffering from serious neglect going back many years. I also found that pages were missing from the acquisition book.
  • In 2012 a museum professional was called in to give an assessment to TDC with a recommendation that a complete audit of all holdings need to take place. It was the worst case of collection  mismanagement he has ever come across.
  • Late 2012 an audit took place revealing items missing, unlisted, misidentified and some items listed with two or more different numbers . Many items in storage were in bad poor condition. In the back room 680 prints and pictures were found poorly stored in racks covered in thick dust and suffering from neglect. In more than half of the collection there is no provenance to the items. 
  • In March 2013 I reported the situation to the TDC audit and governance committee along  with some research evidence. On April 23rd 2013 the issue will be going to overview and scrutiny.
  • From 1974 to 2013 TDC has never had a complete audited list of holdings of art and artifacts it owns..

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