Museum acquisitions

Museums often acquire works through donations but, in spite of funding constraints, they also make purchases to expand their collections, either bidding at auctions, negotiating private treaty sales or, in the UK, via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.


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Mail robber’s candid story of seduction and smuggling will go on museum display

01 March 2021

A rare, candid autobiographical account by a soon-to-be-executed 18th century brickmaker has been bought by Horsham Museum.

Breguet Four Minute Tourbillon watch

Rare George III watch barred from leaving country in hope it can be bought by a UK buyer

03 February 2021

A £2m pocket watch once owned by George III has been temporarily blocked from export to give a UK institution the chance to purchase it.

Armada map

Saved for the nation: Armada maps are bought with help from Antiques Trade Gazette

01 February 2021

Armada maps stay in UK after ATG story inspires campaign

One of 10 rare maps depicting the Spanish Armada

Armada maps saved for the nation after Navy museum secures funding from grants and the public

28 January 2021

A group of hand-drawn Armada maps depicting a key moment in England’s history have been saved after a fundraising campaign by the Royal Navy museum.

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Royal Medical Service hopes to raise £15,500 to secure medicine cabinet linked to Lord Nelson’s surgeon Sir William Beatty

21 January 2021

Members of the Royal Medical Service hope to raise funding to purchase a medicine cabinet that has been linked to Lord Nelson’s surgeon Sir William Beatty.

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London dealers sell 12th dynasty Egyptian relief to German museum

13 January 2021

An Egyptian polychrome painted limestone relief from the 12th dynasty has been bought by the State Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich, Germany.

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Books by Jane Austen’s favourite poet return home to Chawton House

11 January 2021

Chawton House has bought a rare first edition of Poems by Jane Austen’s favourite poet, William Cowper, which was once owned by her brother.

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News In Brief – including a London dealer selling an important Thomas Hardy archive

11 January 2021

A round-up of art and antiques news from the previous seven days, including London dealer Maggs Bros selling a Thomas Hardy archive to a Dorset museum.

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Dorset museum raises funds to secure Thomas Hardy archive from London book dealer

07 January 2021

The Dorset Archives Trust (DAT) has raised the final £5000 needed to purchase a collection of important manuscript and printed material once owned by novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928).

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West Sussex museum buys Edwardian designs for local church windows from London dealer

30 December 2020

Horsham Museum and Art Gallery has bought a presentation watercolour for three stained glass windows in local church St Peter’s in Cowfold from London dealers Abbott and Holder.

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Nimrod expedition sledge and flag head to UK institutions

21 December 2020

A sledge and flag from the first expedition to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton have been saved for the nation.

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Record year for Acceptance in Lieu schemes with £65m artworks accepted for the nation

21 December 2020

A record amount of paintings, antiques and historic objects were saved for the nation in lieu of tax in 2020, with £65m of objects accepted.

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Austrian artist’s rare auction appearance

21 December 2020

A group of works by the elusive Austrian émigré artist Marie-Louise von Motesiczky (1906-96) made a rare appearance at Chiswick Auctions’ (25% buyer’s premium) latest British & European Fine Art sale.

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Museum buys memorial plaque of Great War’s ‘first black officer’

14 November 2020

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum (Royal Warwickshire) has bought a First World War ‘dead man’s penny’ memorial plaque.

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Stanley Spencer Gallery acquires the artist's last known self-portrait drawing

09 November 2020

The last known drawn self-portrait of Modern British artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) has been acquired by the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham.

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Jasper Johns US flag artwork donated to the British Museum

04 November 2020

Jasper Johns’ screenprint 'Flags I' will be on display at the British Museum after the million-dollar artwork was donated to the institution.

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Public cash call to help keep Armada maps in the UK

03 November 2020

The National Museum of the Royal Navy hopes to raise £600,000 to stop the export of a group of hand-drawn Armada maps to an overseas buyer.

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Venetian abbey buys northern Renaissance devotional oil

19 October 2020

Turin dealership Caretto & Occhinegro Gallery has sold a previously unpublished oil by Jan Matsys (c.1510-75) to the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.

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It moss be love: naturalist’s album bought by museum

19 October 2020

At a recent PBFA fair, dealer John Underwood sold a collection of albums of mosses compiled by the naturalist Frederick DuCane Godman (1834-1919) to Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

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Pre-emptions: stepping in at the fall of the gavel

19 October 2020

Pre-emption, the right of a French museum or institution to step in at the fall of the gavel to claim a lot at auctions staged in France for purchase at the hammer price, is a common occurence in such sales.

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