East Grinstead Museum's Collections Development Policy helps to shape the Museum's collections by guiding the acquisition and disposal of items as well as the collection’s overall development, ensuring that this is led by and in keeping with the Museum’s Constitution, vision and mission.
It provides information as to the history of the development of the collection and future priorities, the Museum’s approach to acquisition and disposal, and confirms the Museum’s commitment to ensuring and maintaining the legal and ethical development of its collections.
This Policy is intended for Museum Trustees, staff, volunteers, internal and external stakeholders, supporters and the public. It will be made available electronically on the Museum’s website and by hard copy within the Museum.
1.1 The Museum's Statement of Purpose is:
The objects of East Grinstead Museum CIO were set out in Clause 3 of the Museum’s Constitution, dated 11th November 2016, and are:
• To provide for the advancement of public education by the provision of the museum comprising the existing collection together with such other exhibits or items as may from time to time be comprised in the trust fund and to preserve the same as a collection.
• To educate the public in the geography history and natural history of the area of the town of East Grinstead and its neighbourhood
The Trustees have interpreted this to form the following vision and mission:
Sparking a sense of place and belonging in East Grinstead’s past, present and future, through the stories we share.
East Grinstead Museum collects, safeguards and interprets collections to tell stories of local people and local events for the interest, enjoyment and education of all.
1.2 The governing body will ensure that both acquisition and disposal are carried out openly and with transparency.
1.3 By definition, the Museum has a long-term purpose and holds collections in trust for the benefit of the public in relation to its stated objectives. The governing body therefore accepts the principle that sound curatorial reasons must be established before consideration is given to any acquisition to the collection, or the disposal of any items in the museum’s collection.
1.4 Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in exceptional circumstances.
1.5 The Museum recognises its responsibility, when acquiring additions to its collections, to ensure that care of collections, documentation arrangements and use of collections will meet the requirements of the Museum Accreditation Standard. This includes using SPECTRUM primary procedures for collections management. It will take into account limitations on collecting imposed by such factors as staffing, storage and care of collection arrangements.
1.6 The Museum will undertake due diligence and make every effort not to acquire, whether by purchase, gift, bequest or exchange, any object or specimen unless the governing body or responsible officer is satisfied that the museum can acquire a valid title to the item in question.
1.7 The Museum will not undertake disposal motivated principally by financial reasons.
2: History of the collections
East Grinstead Museum’s founding collection came from the merger of three collections in 1976: remaining items from the town’s first Museum which operated from the Parish Church Tower between 1926 -1955; a collection amassed by the East Grinstead Society from 1968; and items acquired by the Town Council (then the Urban District Council). Since this time, when the Museum was first offered premises, the collection has grown through the ongoing acquisition of items and, most significantly, through:
• The acquisition of items from Charles Goolden, a local self-employed agricultural engineer, which included items from the old East Grinstead Pottery Works.
• The acquisition of the Queen Victoria Hospital (QVH) Collection – a collection of items relating to the town’s hospital and internationally significant developments there during the Second World War and beyond, acquired in 2009 when the Queen Victoria Hospital Museum closed.
• The Malcolm Powell Collection – a collection of images and associated material from town photographer Malcolm Powell acquired in 2011.
The collection has been further shaped by a collection review carried out in 2011-2012 which resulted in the deaccession and disposal of some 150 items from the Museum’s collection that were identified as being out of keeping with the Museum’s collecting remit.
3: An overview of current collections
The Museum’s current collection comprises approximately 25,000 items, which includes objects, archival material and images in keeping with the Museum's purpose, in other words, relating to the town of East Grinstead and its surrounds from pre-history to the present day. The collection tells and interprets the history of the town and the surrounding villages, their people, trades, professions, buildings, institutions and other aspects of life. Social history is well represented, as are agricultural and trade histories.
Of particular strength is the Museum's image collection which includes glass plate negatives, transparencies, postcards, negatives, photograph albums and individual photographs of all sizes. It includes scenes depicting East Grinstead and its surrounds through the ages including streets, shops, businesses, houses, people, events, buildings and organisations amongst many others.
Also of particular significance and strength is the Queen Victoria Hospital (QVH) collection which comprises approximately 3000 items. East Grinstead’s Queen Victoria Hospital achieved fame during the Second World War for its pioneering treatment and rehabilitation of the War’s burnt airmen under the control of renowned plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe. His patients, which included airmen from across the Allied forces, went on to form the 649 member strong ‘Guinea Pig Club’. This nationally and internationally important collection includes medical and surgical equipment, Guinea Pig Club memorabilia and souvenirs, images of the Club, surgeons and hospital and other items that tell the story of McIndoe, the hospital and the Guinea Pig Club.
Lastly, a large part of the collections is formed up by the Malcolm Powell Collection, which was acquired in 2011. This consists of a vast number of photographic negatives which relate to Mr Powell’s photography business, which ran from the 1960s to the 1990s. The collection likely consists of nearly 50,000 photographic negatives, but this is only an estimate based on the photographer’ day books which form the documentation for this collection. They provide a fascinating insight into the social history of this period.
In addition to its accessioned collection, East Grinstead Museum has two further non-accessioned collections - a fully accessible Research Room Collection and a Handling Collection. The Research Room collection comprises books, written memories of local people, folders of cuttings, programmes, journals, magazines, and so on relating to the town of East Grinstead and its surrounds. It’s aim is to support local people in researching aspects of local history, and is widely used by researchers.
The Handling Collection is primarily made up of items that duplicate items already held within the accessioned collection and items that are not suitable for the accessioned collection but are of use for educational or reminiscence purposes in keeping with the Museum’s vision and mission.
4: Themes and priorities for future collecting
Collecting and collections development is ongoing with the Museum acquiring new acquisitions for the collection primarily through donation by members of the public.
The Museum recognises the need to be selective in its acquisition of items - measures are in place to ensure that only items relevant to the Museum’s purpose, vision and mission are acquired and retained and therefore the collection develops to afford the best public benefit. As such, geographical limitations are imposed and the Museum only collects items that pertain to East Grinstead and its neighbouring areas. Items from, or with a strong connection to the following areas are accepted for the collection:
- Ashdown Forest
- Ashurst Wood
- Baldwins Hill
- Blindley Heath
- Chelwood Common
- Chelwood Gate
- Colemans Hatch
- Crawley Down
- Dormans Park
- East Grinstead
- Forest Row
- Horsted Keynes
- Turners Hill
- Weir Wood
- West Hoathly
- Wych Cross
Where possible, all potential acquisitions are assessed prior to the Entry and, subsequently, the Accessioning procedures if suitable. Factors such as the information and identity of the item, its potential use, its condition, whether it duplicates other items within the collection, the Museum’s ability to care for and manage the item, the Museum's ability to make the item accessible, storage and so on are considered as part of this assessment.
Further information about this can be found in the Museum’s Collections Management Procedures Manual.
In the immediate future, the museum will prioritise collecting materials related to the Guinea Pig Club, especially as the last few living members are still around. It will also seek to better understand gaps within that collection, especially relating to less well known stories and prioritise acquisitions to fill that gap.
The Museum has imposed themes on its collection both as a tool of collections management and as a means of identifying themes and priorities for future collecting. The themes evolve as the collection evolves but the current themes in use are:
- Art, crafts, decorative
- Buildings and Building materials
- Givic Services
- Local tradition
- Medical history
- Persons of local interest
*For Archaeology Deposition Guidelines, see East Grinstead Museum's Collections Management Procedures Manual