The museum has a Collections Development Policy which is approved by our board and the University Council. It details the areas in which we aim to acquire new artefacts for the museum and procedures around both acquisition and disposal. It follows the template recommended by Arts Council England for accreditation. The policy covers 2016 -2021.  









2016 -2021



Name of museum: The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum (formerly The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture).


Name of governing body: The University of Exeter is the governing body. The University Council is the ultimate body of approval, following advice and approval via the museum’s Board. The University Foundation (a charity - number 287738) owns the collections in trust on behalf of the University.


Date on which this policy was approved by governing body: 7 July 2016


Policy review procedure:

The collections development policy will be published and reviewed from time to time, at least once every five years. This policy replaces the Collections Development Policy 2012.


Date at which this policy is due for review: June 2021


Arts Council England will be notified of any changes to the collections development policy, and the implications of any such changes for the future of collections.


  1. 1.    Relationship to other relevant policies/plans of the organisation:


1.1.       The museum’s statement of purpose is:


The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum celebrates the long history of the moving image; no other public collection in the UK can offer its depth, breadth and accessibility in telling this story.

As a University museum, The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum must demonstrate its significant contribution to teaching and research at the University of Exeter and contribute to its aspirations to be established as one of the top 100 universities in the world. As a museum that is also open to the public, The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum should share its collections and knowledge with the wider world and play a leading role in the University’s impact outputs for disseminating research.


1.2.       The governing body will ensure that both acquisition and disposal are carried out openly and with transparency.


1.3.       By definition, the museum has a long-term purpose and holds collections in trust for the benefit of the public in relation to its stated objectives. The governing body therefore accepts the principle that sound curatorial reasons must be established before consideration is given to any acquisition to the collection, or the disposal of any items in the museum’s collection.


1.4.       Acquisitions outside the current stated policy will only be made in exceptional circumstances.


1.5.       The museum recognises its responsibility, when acquiring additions to its collections, to ensure that care of collections, documentation arrangements and use of collections will meet the requirements of the Museum Accreditation Standard. This includes using SPECTRUM primary procedures for collections management. It will take into account limitations on collecting imposed by such factors as staffing, storage and care of collection arrangements.


1.6.       The museum will undertake due diligence and make every effort not to acquire, whether by purchase, gift, bequest or exchange, any object or specimen unless the governing body or responsible officer is satisfied that the museum can acquire a valid title to the item in question.


1.7.       The museum will not undertake disposal motivated principally by financial reasons.




2.    History of the collections


The primary collection in the museum is the Bill Douglas and Peter Jewell collection of cinema and pre-cinema material assembled between the 1960s and 1990s. Following Bill’s death this was donated by Peter to the University in 1994 and the museum opened to the public in 1997. This initial collection of over 50,000 items has been augmented since by further donations from Peter and acquisitions from a variety of other donors. Some of these have been large collections, such as the material on animation from Robin Allan (2007-14 in 3 tranches), or large donations of film publications and ephemera from Roy Fowler (1997-2005) or research materials on the panorama from the estate of Ralph Hyde (2015), while others have given small donations of groups or single items that add to our holdings. We also have some significant archive holdings detailed in section 8.  The collections are increasingly used in teaching and research at the University and national and international scholars visit to consult material.


3.    An overview of current collections


The museum is dedicated to the history of the moving image and its receptionWe cover a broad history of the moving image with particular interest in the audience and their response to what they have seen and in the material produced for them. The Bill Douglas and Peter Jewell Collection is particularly strong in the following areas: popular optical recreations pre-dating cinema; the early years of moving pictures; and the cinema as a popular cultural institution to the present day. These areas are represented through both books and artefacts and cover a period from the 17th century to the present day.  Other areas of strength in the museum include animation, including the largest collection on Disney in the UK; British cinema, especially independent production since 1970; film and cinema publicity material; fan publications; and star ephemera. The collection is used extensively for teaching and research at the University of Exeter and we are mindful of the potential for such uses when we make decisions on acquiring material, as well as any acquisition’s relationship to existing holdings and its display appeal for the public.


We predominantly acquire items of ephemera and related materials around moving images.   

The museum collections as a whole contain approximately:

  150 cinema scrapbook, postcard and cigarette card albums

  21,000 books

  4000 cigarette cards

  2800 cinema and film programmes

  Over 2000 pieces of film campaign material

  200 film related games and jigsaws

  Over 1000 lantern slides and other optical ‘software’

  2300 miscellaneous cinema related objects

  500 optical toys and instruments 

  8000 paper ephemera items

  Over 11,000 periodicals

  6400 photographs

  6500 postcards

  1500 film posters

  350 prints and paintings

  700 film related vinyl records

  2990 film related sheet music items

 1800 stereo cards


Over 75000 items in total


According to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between Peter Jewell and the governing body, items from the Bill Douglas and Peter Jewell Collection will be identified as such in relation to other acquisitions.


4.    Themes and priorities for future collecting


We continue to collect and are contacted frequently by people with material relating to moving image history. We then make a curatorial judgment on whether material offered adds value to our holdings for visitors and researchers.  The museum will seek to develop and expand the collection in all its main areas of strength. Particular areas of moving image history in which the collection is strong include: material relating to the audience’s interaction with cinema culture, publicity material, pre-cinema, early cinema, Chaplin, Disney and animation, stars, and British independent film production of the 1970s and 1980s.There may be further areas within the history of the moving image that are appropriate for acquisition by the museum. Importance will be attached to completion of partial holdings of material or acquisition of material which enhances the interpretation of existing holdings and can contribute to teaching and research. Thus the primary areas of interest are books, objects and ephemera relating to the cinema (in particular English language cinema); similar material on television and other moving image based forms of popular culture, and artefacts relating to pre-cinema, or optical media, which may date back as far as the 17th century. Acquisitions are principally, but not exclusively, from the UK.

The story of moving images is a continuing narrative and we also aim to acquire contemporary material that maps the changing nature of the medium.  

Most items acquired will be by donation although there may be occasions when, with the advice of board members and when the financial situation allows, appropriate acquisitions which add value to the collections are purchased.

The Curatorial team on behalf of the board and the University Council reserves the right to decline offers of donation, particularly if the material offered:

  • is of      insufficient quality or interest in relation to existing holdings
  • cannot be      adequately stored or displayed within the museum’s resources
  • duplicates      material already held in the museum
  • is more relevant      to another museum or institution in the region


In cases of declined material the governing body will, through the museum’s curatorial team, attempt to recommend other museums or institutions to the prospective donor. Since the closure of the Museum of the Moving Image in 1999 and with the proposed redirection of the National Media Museum there are no museums that offer the same scope or depth of film history as The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum but there are areas of specialism for particular materials that may be more appropriate destinations in some circumstances and these are outlined in section 7.



5.    Themes and priorities for rationalisation and disposal



5.1      The museum recognises that the principles on which priorities for rationalisation and disposal are determined will be through a formal review process that identifies which collections are included and excluded from the review. The outcome of review and any subsequent rationalisation will not reduce the quality or significance of the collection and will result in a more useable, well managed collection.


5.2      The procedures used will meet professional standards. The process will be documented, open and transparent. There will be clear communication with key stakeholders about the outcomes and the process.


Over the period of the policy we may choose to dispose of some material accessioned in the past which duplicates other holdings, which do not fit the collections development policy or which are in very poor condition and unsuitable for display or use for research.


6     Legal and ethical framework for acquisition and disposal of items


6.1      The museum recognises its responsibility to work within the parameters of the Museum Association Code of Ethics when considering acquisition and disposal.



7     Collecting policies of other museums


7.1      The museum will take account of the collecting policies of other museums and other organisations collecting in the same or related areas or subject fields. It will consult with these organisations where conflicts of interest may arise or to define areas of specialism, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and waste of resources.


7.2      Specific reference is made to the following museum(s)/organisation(s):


   National Media Museum, Bradford (for cameras and other hardware)

   National Fairground Archive, Sheffield

   Kingston Museum

   Hove Museum

   The Cinema Museum, London

   And the following libraries, archives and other organisations:

   BFI National Archive

   BFI National Library

   South West Film and Television Archive, Plymouth

   The Projected Picture Trust        

7.3 We have a reciprocal agreement with the Theatre Collection at the University of Bristol whereby we will direct offers of theatre material to them and they will forward offers of cinema material to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.


8. Archival holdings    

The museum holds a number of archives based on the careers of British independent filmmakers working since 1970. These include producers Don Boyd, Gavrik Losey, and James Mackay and Bill Douglas himself, who as well as being a collector was a very significant British filmmaker. There are also a couple of smaller collections from important film and TV industry figures. Together these form an important resource on film history in this period and illuminate the work of several key talents in British filmmaking. We would consider further holdings subject to our assessment of their cultural value, relation to existing archives and limitations through collecting due to staff and space requirements.  The museum’s governing body will be guided on archive matters by the Code of Practice on Archives for Museums and Galleries in the United Kingdom (3rd ed., 2002). The museum also benefits from the direct advice of professional archives staff, as the museum is part of the Heritage Collections Section of the University.



9.  Acquisition


9.1 The policy for agreeing acquisitions is: The Curator would usually make decisions on acquisitions with reference to the parameters of the agreed Collections Development Policy, the need to avoid any duplication, and any logistical barriers to acquisition. Details are communicated in regular curator’s reports to the board for approval. If potential issues are identified or if they are larger collections then there is consultation with members of the board and the management team, either individually or at a meeting, to evaluate the research importance and desirability of the donation. Almost all our acquisitions are donations but if an item was identified for purchase then consultation with management and the board would also take place.



9.2 The museum will not acquire any object or specimen unless it is satisfied that the object or specimen has not been acquired in, or exported from, its country of origin (or any intermediate country in which it may have been legally owned) in violation of that country’s laws. (For the purposes of this paragraph ‘country of origin’ includes the United Kingdom).


9.3      In accordance with the provisions of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which the UK ratified with effect from November 1 2002, and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, the museum will reject any items that have been illicitly traded. The governing body will be guided by the national guidance on the responsible acquisition of cultural property issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2005.


Museums in Scotland should omit the wording ‘and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003’


10. Human remains



10.1   The museum does not hold or intend to acquire any human remains.


11. Biological and geological material


Please include either of the following paragraphs, as appropriate:


11.1      The museum will not acquire any biological or geological material.



12    Archaeological material



12.1      The museum will not acquire any archaeological material.




13. Exceptions


13.1      Any exceptions to the above clauses will only be because the museum is:


  • acting as an externally approved repository of last resort for material of local (UK) origin


  • acting with the permission of authorities with the requisite jurisdiction in the country of origin


In these cases the museum will be open and transparent in the way it makes decisions and will act only with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority. The museum will document when these exceptions occur.



14. Spoliation


14.1              The museum will use the statement of principles ‘Spoliation of Works of Art during the Nazi, Holocaust and World War II period’, issued for non-national museums in 1999 by the Museums and Galleries Commission.



15    The Repatriation and Restitution of objects and human remains


Not relevant to this museum.


16          Disposal procedures


16.1      All disposals will be undertaken with reference to the SPECTRUM Primary Procedures on disposal.


16.2      The governing body will confirm that it is legally free to dispose of an item. Agreements on disposal made with donors will also be taken into account.


16.3      When disposal of a museum object is being considered, the museum will establish if it was acquired with the aid of an external funding organisation. In such cases, any conditions attached to the original grant will be followed. This may include repayment of the original grant and a proportion of the proceeds if the item is disposed of by sale.


16.4      When disposal is motivated by curatorial reasons the procedures outlined below will be followed and the method of disposal may be by gift, sale, exchange or as a last resort - destruction.


16.5      The decision to dispose of material from the collections will be taken by the governing body only after full consideration of the reasons for disposal. Other factors including public benefit, the implications for the museum’s collections and collections held by museums and other organisations collecting the same material or in related fields will be considered. Expert advice will be obtained and the views of stakeholders such as donors, researchers, local and source communities and others served by the museum will also be sought.


16.6      A decision to dispose of a specimen or object, whether by gift, exchange, sale or destruction (in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use for the purposes of the collections or for reasons of health and safety), will be the responsibility of the governing body of the museum acting on the advice of professional curatorial staff, if any, and not of the curator or manager of the collection acting alone.


16.7      Once a decision to dispose of material in the collection has been taken, priority will be given to retaining it within the public domain. It will therefore be offered in the first instance, by gift or sale, directly to other Accredited Museums likely to be interested in its acquisition.


16.8      If the material is not acquired by any Accredited museum to which it was offered as a gift or for sale, then the museum community at large will be advised of the intention to dispose of the material normally through a notice on the MA’s Find an Object web listing service, an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal or in other specialist publications and websites (if appropriate).


16.9      The announcement relating to gift or sale will indicate the number and nature of specimens or objects involved, and the basis on which the material will be transferred to another institution. Preference will be given to expressions of interest from other Accredited Museums. A period of at least two months will be allowed for an interest in acquiring the material to be expressed. At the end of this period, if no expressions of interest have been received, the museum may consider disposing of the material to other interested individuals and organisations giving priority to organisations in the public domain.


16.10   Any monies received by the museum governing body from the disposal of items will be applied solely and directly for the benefit of the collections. This normally means the purchase of further acquisitions. In exceptional cases, improvements relating to the care of collections in order to meet or exceed Accreditation requirements relating to the risk of damage to and deterioration of the collections may be justifiable. Any monies received in compensation for the damage, loss or destruction of items will be applied in the same way. Advice on those cases where the monies are intended to be used for the care of collections will be sought from the Arts Council England/CyMAL


16.11   The proceeds of a sale will be allocated so it can be demonstrated that they are spent in a manner compatible with the requirements of the Accreditation standard. Money must be restricted to the long-term sustainability, use and development of the collection.


16.12   Full records will be kept of all decisions on disposals and the items involved and proper arrangements made for the preservation and/or transfer, as appropriate, of the documentation relating to the items concerned, including photographic records where practicable in accordance with SPECTRUM Procedure on deaccession and disposal.


Disposal by exchange



16.13   The nature of disposal by exchange means that the museum will not necessarily be in a position to exchange the material with another Accredited museum. The governing body will therefore ensure that issues relating to accountability and impartiality are carefully considered to avoid undue influence on its decision-making process.


16.13.1              In cases where the governing body wishes for sound curatorial reasons to exchange material directly with Accredited or non-Accredited museums, with other organisations or with individuals, the procedures in paragraphs 16.1-5 will apply.


16.13.2              If the exchange is proposed to be made with a specific Accredited museum, other Accredited museums which collect in the same or related areas will be directly notified of the proposal and their comments will be requested.


16.13.3              If the exchange is proposed with a non-Accredited museum, with another type of organisation or with an individual, the museum will place a notice on the MA’s Find an Object web listing service, or make an announcement in the Museums Association’s Museums Journal or in other specialist publications and websites (if appropriate).


16.13.4              Both the notification and announcement must provide information on the number and nature of the specimens or objects involved both in the museum’s collection and those intended to be acquired in exchange. A period of at least two months must be allowed for comments to be received. At the end of this period, the governing body must consider the comments before a final decision on the exchange is made.


Disposal by destruction


16.14   If it is not possible to dispose of an object through transfer or sale, the governing body may decide to destroy it.


16.15   It is acceptable to destroy material of low intrinsic significance (duplicate mass-produced articles or common specimens which lack significant provenance) where no alternative method of disposal can be found.


16.16   Destruction is also an acceptable method of disposal in cases where an object is in extremely poor condition, has high associated health and safety risks or is part of an approved destructive testing request identified in an organisation’s research policy.


16.17   Where necessary, specialist advice will be sought to establish the appropriate method of destruction. Health and safety risk assessments will be carried out by trained staff where required.


16.18   The destruction of objects should be witnessed by an appropriate member of the museum workforce. In circumstances where this is not possible, eg the destruction of controlled substances, a police certificate should be obtained and kept in the relevant object history file.




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