A message concerning recent proposals by the National Trust

As an association dedicated to the study of the history of collecting, we are profoundly concerned about the recent announcement by the National Trust that it will be making 1200 staff, including national and regional curators, conservators and garden specialists, redundant.

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty owns some some 344 historic properties of which 144 are accredited museums in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has its own National Trust). Some 10% of this nation’s population make up its membership (nearly 6 million). Its purposes, enshrined in successive Acts of Parliament, include: ‘the preservation of furniture and pictures and chattels of any description having national or historic or artistic interest’ and ‘access to and enjoyment of such buildings places and chattels by the public’.

The National Trust holds these properties in trust for the nation and has an absolute duty of care for their chattels. The NT has acquired major works of art and entire collections through various means: gratis via Treasury Transfer and allocation through Acceptance in Lieu, by purchase at auction and private treaty sale with grant aid from such bodies as the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, from trusts and foundations, individual benefactors and NT members and associations. The NT’s acquisitions policy states that ‘ownership by the Trust should increase benefit to the nation. Such benefit is for future generations as well as our own. It can be provided through physical, visual and intellectual access…’. This duty of care and provision of public benefit cannot be achieved by means of an exclusively populist approach and the downgrading of curatorial expertise. The NT has been a beacon to other countries that have set up or wish to establish similar organisations to preserve their national patrimony. The Society for the History of Collecting is concerned that the NT’s proposed changes will have an enormous deleterious impact on the understanding of the history of collecting in this and other countries and will forever change the NT’s reputation and standing.

Adriana Turpin, FSA, Chairman

Members of the Society’s Steering Committee
Dr Susanna Avery-Quash
Dr Susan Bracken, FSA
Dr Silvia Davoli
Dr Ana Debenedetti
Prof. John Harrison
Rebecca Lyons
Dr Caroline McCaffrey Howarth
Dr Lisa Skogh, FSA
Dr Thomas Stammers
Dr Marie Tavinor
Dr Imogen Tedbury
Dr Eleni Vassilika
Martina Fusari

Members of the Society’s Advisory Board
Prof. Linda Borean
Dr Arthur Macgregor, FSA
Sir Nicholas Penny
Charles Sebag-Montefiore, FSA
Anna Somers Cocks, FSA, O.B.E.


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 We are an international not-for-profit society bringing together scholars from diverse disciplines, as well as collectors, museum curators, and those of the general audience who are passionately  interested in the study of collecting in all its ramifications, including the relationships between collecting and the art market. We cover all aspects of collecting, whether amassed by private individuals or public institutions, and ranging through any time in the past to the present day.

 

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