The largest organisation representing the UK's museum sector has questioned the ethics of Croydon Council's plans to sell £13m Chinese dynasty antiques.

The Museums Association said the proposed sale of the 24 of the most expensive items in the renowned Riesco collection, which spans from Neolithic times to the 19th century, breached a "very clear" code of the ethics.

The association's code states collections "should not normally be regarded as financially-negotiable assets" and that selling items "risks damaging public confidence in museums".

It adds collections should only be sold for financial reasons in exceptional circumstances, such as if the collection is not considered "core" to the museum or if a significant long-term public benefit can be demonstrated.

Your Local Guardian: Items from the Riesco collection on display in the Museum of Croydon

The Riesco collection on display in the Croydon Clocktower

The association said it would be writing to Croydon Council to "open a dialogue" over the Riesco collection - beqeauthed to the borough by collector Raymond  Riesco in 1964.

Nick Merriman, the convenor of the MA’s ethics committee, said: "Croydon did not approach us, we heard about this case through the press.


"The council should follow the formal procedure according to the code of ethics. At the moment it is not clear to us that they are doing so.

"We would particularly like to know why the collection is not considered core as we understand it was part of the founding deposit at the museum."

Maurice Davies, the association's head of policy and communications, said: "We are keen to have a dialogue so that we can help them understand what the code of ethics prohibits and what it allows in defining exceptional circumstances for financially-motivated disposal.

"The code of ethics is very clear on these criteria."

Your Local Guardian: A porcelain cake box from the Wanli period (1573 -1619) is set to go under the hammerYour Local Guardian:

A porcelain cake box from the Wanli period (1573 -1619) and a saucer dish from the Jiajing period (1522- 66)

The proposed sell-off provoked anger when revealed last month. A petition condemning the sale as "cultural vandalism" currently bears 375 signatures.

Jacqueline Wendleken, who says she is Mr Riesco's great-granddaughter, is among those to have signed it.

She wrote: "He spent a lifetime lovingly collecting this and donated this to the public. The sale of this should not be allowed to happen."

Croydon Council said it had sought the backing of the Riesco family before proceeding with its plans. 

It claimed the items up for auction were being "wasted" because it could not afford to display them.

Councillor Tim Pollard, the council’s culture spokesman, said Croydon Clocktower - where much of the Riesco collection, including  is exhibited - would require "Louvre-style security" to house the most expensive pieces.

A petition supporting the sale, launched in response to that of opponents', has been signed by 169 people.