British Museum takes founder off his pedestal
THE British Museum has been accused of erasing its own history after removing the bust of its founder from a pedestal over slavery links.
The sculpture of Sir Hans Sloane has now been put in a display of artefacts that explain his legacy as a ‘collector and slave owner’.
The move has infuriated campaigners, who called the museum’s actions shameful.
Sloane’s 71,000 artefacts became the starting point of the British Museum after he left them to the state in his will.
But the physician and philanthropist funded his collecting through the sugar plantation of his wife’s family.
Campaign group Save Our Statues said it shows how far the museum had ‘become infected with this woke disease’.
A spokesman added: ‘Such disrespect and ingratitude to a man whose generosity has helped preserve so much world history for millions to enjoy. To now shame him permanently is disgraceful. Another of our once great institutions gone woke, happy to publicly shame their founder and rewrite our history to appease a minority. It’s clear we can no longer trust them with our heritage.’
General Secretary Richard Bingley said: ‘I can’t think of a more ironic situation than a museum erasing its own history by removing the bust of its founder.
‘It’s the sort of daft scenario that Monty Python scriptwriters might have conjured up. We urge the Government to step in, to treat this urgent situation as they would a failing school, and suspend the institution’s leadership.’
But historian and broadcaster David Olusoga called the decision as a ‘really useful step forward’. He told BBC Radio 4’s the Today Programme: ‘ Very often with these busts and statues the problem is the pedestal. The pedestal means affirmation, it means validation. It means heroisation of the person and their actions.
‘When people talk about toppling statues what they mean is removing them from that position on a pedestal that says this was a great and good man and we should not question them.
‘They should be on display, Hans Sloane is a historic figure, but is he really somebody in all aspects of his life that we went to celebrate and validate? I think it’s a really useful step forward. It’s not erasing history, this is the myth, this is the false flag that is constantly raised. It is taking something off a pedestal, removing that form of validation, and having it on public display for public discussion in another context.’
The debate was sparked after Hartwig Fischer, the director of the museum in central London, said the institution had deliberately ‘pushed him [Hans] off the pedestal’. He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We must not hide anything. Healing is knowledge.’
Neal Spencer, the curator behind the Sloane display, said the Black Lives Matter movement had provided ‘a certain level of urgency’ to the overhaul.