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This policy complements the Society’s existing Collections-specific policies and brings the Society into line with current best practice in the Museums and Galleries sector, introducing a first formal policy on disposal. It has been created using benchmarking and referencing those policies employed by the UK national collections in association with their guidelines for museum and library disposals and is appropriate in relation to the accreditation of the Society’s Collections as being of ‘National Importance’.

The Policy was approved by Council and will be reviewed on an annual basis by the Society’s Collections Advisory Group (CAG) to ensure relevance.

As defined in the Society’s Charter and byelaws: “The Society shall maintain a Library and a collection of Maps, Charts, Photographs and Archival Papers connected with Geographical Science to which Members of the Society shall have access and borrowing entitlements, under such restrictions as may appear advisable to the Council.”

There is no reference in the terminology to the acquisition or disposal of Collections items and therefore the word ‘Maintain’ implies the curation and management of the items in the Society’s holdings, to include the disposal of items under the terms proposed below. Approval to dispose of Collections items has been – and shall continue to be – solely following written confirmation to proceed granted by the Society’s Council.

The Society, through its Council, accepts the principle that sound curatorial reasons for disposal must be established before consideration is given to the disposal of any items in the Society’s Collections and will ensure that the disposal process is carried out openly and with transparency.

  1. Governance of Disposals
    1. Responsibility for disposal from the Collections is delegated by Council to the Director and by the Director to the Head of Enterprise and Resources. The exercise of judgement on the suitability of items for disposal is the responsibility of the Head of Enterprise and Resources, working with the Principal Librarian and the Map Librarian.
    2. To maintain an adequate safeguard against injudicious disposal the Collections Advisory Group (CAG) will consider each case (or group of cases) for disposal in the cycle of its regular annual meetings and make recommendations for approval, or not, to the next successive Council meeting. Papers outlining the case for disposal will be submitted to the CAG in advance of each of its meeting.
    3. The process of review and request for approval by the CAG will be dealt with under a standing order for ‘Acquisitions and Disposals’. In advance of the meeting at which the proposal will be considered, the Head of Enterprise and Resources will discuss with the Chair of the CAG whether the expertise of the group shall be sufficient to make a recommendation, or in certain cases where a relevant external subject specialist or knowledgeable adviser from a different collection or external expert may be called, pro bono, to contribute to discussion or send a written recommendation to the CAG.
    4. Where deterioration is the reason for the proposed disposal, a conservation expert must be consulted and agree in principle to the proposed disposal, unless the items proposed for disposal are covered by Item 7 (Routine Disposals) outlined below.
    5. The recommendation to agree to each proposed disposal must be recorded in the minutes of the relevant CAG meeting and reported to Council as an item for final approval under Director’s business, excluding items classified under Item 7 (Routine Disposals) below, where the items disposed of shall be listed under the agenda item and recorded in the minutes of the CAG.
    6. Full records will be kept of all disposal decisions and the items involved and retained in perpetuity within the Collections management archive. Proper arrangements will be made for the preservation and/or transfer, as appropriate, of the documentation relating to the items concerned, including photographic records where practicable, in accordance with the SPECTRUM procedure on deaccession and disposal.
  2. Motivation for Disposal
    The Society’s Council may dispose of an item by sale, exchange, or gift, unless specific restrictions apply, if it falls into one or more of the following categories:
    1. It is a duplicate of another item.
    2. The item is unsuitable for retention and can be disposed of without detriment to the interests of fellows, members, students, or other members of the public.
    3. The Council may approve destruction or otherwise disposal of an item if it has deteriorated beyond usefulness for the purposes of the Collections, because of damage, physical deterioration, or infestation by destructive organisms. An item may be disposed of in this manner notwithstanding a trust or condition prohibiting or restricting the disposal of the item. In such cases, the paper recommending disposal should also identify any conservation problems that might be relevant for the rest of the Collections, in relation, for example to environmental conditions, so that action may be taken to protect other Collections items.
  3. Methods of Disposal
    1. When disposal is for curatorial reasons, the method of disposal may be gift, transfer, exchange, or sale.
    2. The Society will prioritise disposal by gift, transfer, or exchange over disposal by sale, for example, the scenario where disposal by gift to an institution or community group for their unrestricted use, would have material benefit for the organisation and the discipline.
    3. The Society will not undertake disposal motivated principally by financial reasons unless the Council has taken legal advice to ensure and guarantee that the potential sale for financial reasons does not impede or damage the Society’s status as a Public Charity or present high risk to the Society’s reputation, or hamper the Society’s ability to apply for funding linked to the wider Collections from public and private bodies, trusts and foundations, or put at risk the accreditation of the Collections. Such risk to be measured in line with the regular update and review of the Society’s Risk Register.
    4. Where the motivation for disposal is deterioration, the destruction of the item will be conducted in a manner approved by the Collections Advisory Group to Council.
  4. Requirements placed on the Society for all disposals
    1. The Society will confirm that it is legally free to dispose of an item and agreements on disposal made with donors must be considered.
    2. Where an item had been originally acquired with the aid of external funding any conditions attached to the original grant will be followed. This may include repayment of the original grant and a proportion of the proceeds if the item is disposed of by sale.
    3. The decision to dispose of material from the Collections will be taken only after full consideration of the reasons for disposal. Other factors, including the public benefit, the implications for the Society’s wider Collections and Collections held by museums and other organisations collecting the same material or in related fields will be considered.
    4. Where deemed appropriate by the CAG, external expert advice may be obtained and the views of stakeholders such as donors, researchers, local and sources communities and others served by the Collections will also be sought.
    5. Once a decision to dispose of material in the Collections has been taken, priority will be given to retaining the item within the public domain, unless it is to be destroyed. It will therefore be offered in the first instance, by gift, to accredited collections likely to be interested in its acquisition.
    6. If the material is not acquired by any accredited collection to which it was offered directly as a gift, then the museum community at large will be advised of the intention to dispose of material, normally through an announcement in the Museums Association’s current communications channel and mechanism.
    7. The announcement relating to gift will indicate the number and nature of items involved, and the basis on which the material will be transferred to another institution.
    8. Preference will be given to expressions of interest from other accredited museums and libraries.
    9. A period of at least two months will be allowed for an interest in acquiring the material to be expressed. At the end of this period, if no expressions of interest have been received, the Society may consider disposing of the material to other interested individuals and organisations giving priority those organisations in the public domain.
    10. The nature of disposal by exchange means that the Society will not necessarily be able to exchange the material with another accredited Collection. The Society will therefore ensure that issues relating to accountability and impartiality are carefully considered to avoid undue influence on its decision-making process.
    11. If the disposal by exchange is proposed to be made with a specific accredited Collection, other accredited museums which collect in the same or related areas will be directly notified of the proposal and their comments will be requested.
  5. Additional requirements on the Society for Disposals
    1. The museum and library community at large will be advised of the intention to dispose of material by gift or sale, normally through the channel of the Museums Association’s current mechanism used to notify institutions of such a disposal.
    2. The announcement will indicate the number and nature of items involved.
    3. Preference will be given to expressions of interest from other accredited collections. At the end of this period, if no expressions of interest have been received, the Society may consider disposing of the material to other interested individuals and organisations giving priority to organisations in the public domain, including relevant community groups.
    4. Any monies received by the Society from the disposal of items will be applied for the benefit of the Collections, (as are any monies received in compensation for the damage, loss, or destruction of items). Advice on those cases where the monies received are intended to be used for the care of Collections will be sought from the Collections Advisory Group prior to any expenditure.
    5. The proceeds of a sale will be ring-fenced so it can be demonstrated that they are spent in a manner compatible with the requirements of the Arts Council’s Accreditation Standard and Museums Association’s current mechanism.
  6. Routine disposals
    1. Routine disposal will be governed by the process outlined under clauses 4. and 5. above.
    2. The Director delegates full authority to the Head of Enterprise and Resources to dispose routinely and systematically of material which falls into the following categories, without needing to convene the CAG disposal board to consider individual cases. However, if any reasonable doubts arise about the lasting value of such material, the Head of Enterprise and Resources will consult the Chair of CAG before proceeding.
    3. Examples of items for consideration for routine disposal include:
      1. Superseded issues of physical maps, charts, directories, almanacs, timetables, yearbooks, and similar reference works which are issued on a regular basis, so that previous issues are entirely superseded by successive ones, whose subject content is such that long-term retention of outdated issues is not felt to be desirable. (Selected directories or gazetteers and other volumes or items of geographical record will normally be kept, as they may be useful to researchers in years to come).
      2. Superseded editions of other reference works which are acquired primarily as working tools on a subscription basis.
      3. Duplicate copies of reference material or periodicals, which are acquired for the Collections’ working needs, but which have served their purpose and are either no longer required or superseded by later issues.
      4. Titles for disposal must be approved by the Head of Enterprise and Resources and a list of such titles must be maintained and shared with the CAG for report-only in papers circulated to the group.
      5. Items disposed of under this category must also be removed from the Society’s online KOHA catalogue and recorded in perpetuity in the Collections Management archive.

Approved by CAG 2022