Should a rare Hawaiian artefact displayed at Hastings Museum - potentially worth millions - be sold to help boost council finances?
That was the question posed at Hastings Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday (September 4).
Council leader Peter Chowney discussed the prospect of selling the valuable item, understood to be a ceremonial feather cloak from Hawaii, following a recent insurance appraisal found the item could be worth several million pounds.
At Tuesday’s meeting John Rankin (Conquest) asked if the council should consider selling the item.
In response, Cllr Chowney said: “I think it is worth looking at personally, I know that is kind of heretical for some.
“The council is desperately short of money and if this thing really is worth millions then it is worth looking at although I think there is a risk.”
Cllr Chowney compared the decision to one made by Northampton Borough Council in 2014, after it discovered a valuable ancient Egyptian statue on its shelves.
The statue – known as the Northampton Sekhemka statue – was controversially put up for sale after being valued at around £2m during a insurance valuation.
It eventually sold at auction for a record-breaking £15.76m but saw Northampton Museum lose its Arts Council England accreditation.
Cllr Chowney said: “They were told the museum would lose its accredited museum status, meaning they wouldn’t be able to apply for some grants.
“But when they looked into it, the total they could have possibly gained from the grant streams over the next ten years or so was only a tiny fraction of what this thing was worth.
“In the museum’s press and the general museum’s world this was frowned upon but it brought in a lot of money. And they spent some of the money on the museum and improving the facilities there.
“So it is worth looking at I think, but we should expect to hit the national press if we do.”