A bust of the founder of the British Museum has been removed from its pedestal over his ties to the slave trade, as the influence of Black Lives Matter iconoclasm spreads throughout historical institutions in the United Kingdom.
The bust of Sir Hans Sloane, who bequeathed some 71,000 artefacts to the British nation in the 18th century that he collected through the proceeds of his wife’s sugar plantation, will now be housed in a cabinet alongside artefacts of the slave trade and a label reading “collector [and] slave owner” alongside an explanatory text about the horrors of slavery, a trade which was stamped out at great cost of lives by the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in the 1800s.
The curators of the British Museum said that the move was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that has targeted historical figures in the UK ranging from Sir Edward Colston, Queen Victoria, and even Britain’s wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill.
“The British Museum has done a lot of work – accelerated and enlarged its work on its own history, the history of empire, the history of colonialism, and also of slavery. These are subjects which need to be addressed and to be addressed properly. We need to understand our own history,” the director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer told The Telegraph.
Mr Fischer — the first German director of the British Museum — said that the museum needs to ensure that “the relationship between the Enlightenment era, colonialism and slavery is made explicit”.
The museum director went on to claim that the move will actually bring more attention to the Sloane bust, saying: “We have pushed him off the pedestal, we must not hide anything. Healing is knowledge.”
“We have pushed him off the pedestal where nobody looked at him and placed him in the limelight,” he said.
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The keeper of Nile and Mediterranean objects, as well as the curator of the Sloane slavery display, Neal Spencer, noted “Black Lives Matter provides a certain level of urgency”.
“It’s expected of museums today. The collection is owned by the public in the widest sense,” he said.
“Eventually we’re going to be redisplaying the whole British Museum. We want to tell more of these stories. We want to talk more about the context of how the museum was founded,” Spencer added.
“We want to be upfront about Sloane’s collection being at the root of the British Museum. And we want to put it in a wider context, which is obviously a very difficult context. It happened in the exploitative context of the British Empire. I wouldn’t describe it as an imperialist organisation, but it is a museum that was founded within the context of Empire,” he went on.
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The move comes as another historical institution in the UK has come under fire for bending the knee to BLM.
On Monday, the heritage conservation charity the National Trust wrote on social media that it will begin cataloguing “the places we care for have direct or indirect links to slavery, including objects made from materials obtained by forced labour. “
The National Trust’s Twitter account went on to post images of a mahogany table, chocolate pot, a sugar castor, and ivory relics, all of which were said to be bi-products of the slave trade.
“Slavery has been woven into the fabric of British and global history for thousands of years. For 400 years, white British people, companies and organisations gained huge amounts of wealth through the appalling exploitation of enslaved people as part of the slave trade,” the National Trust wrote.
Responding to the charity’s newfound leftist attitude, the author of The Strange Death of Europe and The Madness of Crowds, Douglas Murray questioned: “Doesn’t this mean that everybody who works for the newly woke National Trust is themselves now directly benefiting from ‘direct or indirect links to slavery’? Shouldn’t they resign?”
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