More on Tate's archive disposal

February 24 2012

As I’m a bit of an archive anorak (and sit on a government archive quango), I’ve done a little more digging on the Tate’s ill-fated house-keeping.

The first point to make is that some of the Tate’s archives count as public records, which are governed by the Public Records Act. And it may be that some serious rules were breached. I don't know exactly what was in the disposed archive, but from what I've heard today from impeccable sources, it certainly wasn’t just old photos Tate was getting rid of. This may need to be looked into further.

Secondly, Tate seems to have broken its own rules on the disposal of archives. Tate’s own Acquisition and Disposals policy states (point 12) that in relation to the management of archives:

As Tate holds archives in the Collection, including photographs and printed ephemera, the Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery will be guided by the Code of Practice on Archives for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom (3rd ed., 2002).

Now, the Code of Practice states that, in relation to disposals:

If any archive material is considered for disposal, the procedures set out in the current Registration Scheme for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom: Registration Guidelines should be followed; the disposal should normally be announced through the Society of Archivists' Newsletter, as well as in the Museums Association's Museums Journal, and the interests of the appropriate national or local archive service should always be considered.

So far, I can find no evidence that these guidelines were followed. And I think that’s pretty serious. The Tate has today denied that the archive was being junked, and says that it always planned to give it to the Paul Mellon Centre. But I've been told this is not true.

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