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The decision came after the annual budget was slashed by over two-thirds in August 2006, reducing it to just under £100,000 and making it impossible for it to remain where it is.

Although it is a blow for the university, the British Museum is only a short walk away, and the BM have pledged to provide a first class display of the collection’s contents in a new, dedicated exhibition space, scheduled to open in September 2008.

The collection’s trustees have agreed a long-term loan to the British Museum, which will be curated by the British Museum’s own staff. They will sign another loan agreement with SOAS for the library and teaching collection, which will remain at the Gordon Square site, home to the collection since 1952.

The move to the British Museum is intended to increase exposure of the collection, which will now be accessible seven days a week.

SOAS Professor Tom Tomlinson, who has overall responsibility for the Percival David Foundation, told ATG: “Details of the new arrangement have not been finalised but I would like to make it clear that all parties – SOAS, the University of London, the British Museum and the Protection Nominees – have all cooperated fully to bring about the best solution possible in the circumstances.”

By Vivienne Lawes