After the climate activist group BP or Not BP staged a weekend-long protest at the British Museum in London, calling on the institution to end its relationship with the oil company, museum workers and former trustee Ahdaf Soueif released a joint statement in support of the demonstration. BP or Not BP’s latest intervention at the museum brought together some 1,500 people and featured a 13-foot tall Trojan horse, a reference to the institution’s ongoing “Troy: Myth or Reality” exhibition, which is sponsored by the oil giant, along with banners bearing the message “BP must fall.”
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at the British Museum and Soueif, who resigned from her post on the museum’s board last July following museum director Hartwig Fischer’s renewed endorsement of BP, wrote in their statement that “every day [the British Museum] continues to endorse BP it collaborates in their ecocide. This must end.” They also detail recent climate disasters, including wildfires in Australia and flooding in Mozambique, asserting that “the climate crisis is here, and urgent, widespread action is needed to minimize the devastation being wreaked on peoples’ lives.”
The statement also notes that PCS has called on the British Museum to declare a climate emergency, a step that other institutions, including Tate, have undertaken. But, the statement says, “the trustees repeatedly demonstrate what can, at best, be described as a willful ignorance of the situation,” adding that “refusing to recognize the scientific evidence is yet another example of their either devastating lack of understanding, or their deliberate climate denial.”
The statement demands that the museum sever its connections to BP, concluding that, as a public institution, the British Museum “owes it to its staff, its visitors, and its future to play a responsible role in the greatest challenge facing society.”
Fischer said in a statement on Saturday, “The British Museum offers for millions of people an extraordinary opportunity to engage with the cultures and histories of humankind. Without external support and sponsorship this would not be possible. Removing this opportunity from the public is not a contribution to solving the climate crisis.”
In a statement to ARTnews, BP or Not BP said it was dissatisfied with Fischer’s lack of engagement with the protest.
“Too often, those at the top of the museum demonstrate this kind of dismissive attitude, whether it is about the issue of BP sponsorship, the conditions for workers, or in failing to respond in any meaningful way to restitution claims,” the group said. “These issues are deeply interconnected and we believe that all workers at the museum deserve fair pay and treatment, and an end to the outsourcing that threatens their jobs and working conditions.”