The news of Torquay Museum’s proposed sale of a letter written by Jane Austen leaves the Jane Austen’s House Museum in a difficult position. Safeguarding public access to Jane Austen’s material heritage is central to our role, and yet as an Accredited Museum we must await the views of the Museums Association and the Arts Council England as to the reasonableness of what is primarily a financially motivated disposal.
We understand and sympathize with the difficulties faced by our colleagues at Torquay Museum. At the same time the loss of items of national interest from public collections is cause of great concern. It would be dreadful if this important letter disappeared from a public collection into private ownership.
Should there be a sale date announced, Jane Austen’s House Museum would require significant individual donations to secure the letter. This is because national funding bodies are unable to support the acquisition of items already in the public domain.