In common with many other museums, IWM disperses of items from its collections from time to time. Often this is done through dispersal of objects to other museums. This process is complex and calls upon the expertise of many members of staff.

What do we mean by dispersal?

'Dispersal' refers to the permanent removal of an item from the collections, which are owned by IWM’s Board of Trustees. Items can be dispersed of by giving them to other museums, sale or planned destruction (in the case of an item too badly damaged or deteriorated to be of any use or on the grounds of health and safety).

Dispersal decision-making

The decision to disperse of or transfer an accessioned item in our collections is the result of a rigorous process:

  • The curator/archivist/ librarian reviews items within a collection and may recommend some dispersals to the Collections Development Committee.
  • We seek expert advice to make sure appropriate information is available on the object proposed for dispersal.
  • The Committee looks at the recommendations very carefully, in the context of the collections, and decides if it should recommend the dispersal. The Committee usually considers proposed dispersals twice to allow for a thorough assessment.
  • If a dispersal is recommended by the Committee it then has to be approved by the Board of Trustees and others within IWM.
  • Where required, approval from the Secretary of State, DCMS is sought.

Please note the process can vary depending upon the method of dispersal.

Consent to dispersal

Dispersals of accessioned material (other than duplicate items) require the consent of the Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport or their designated authorities.

For more information on dispersal, please see our FAQs page and our Collections Development Policy