The British Museum
© Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum

In a damning online critique of the British Museum, the prominent Egyptian-born writer Ahdaf Soueif has announced that she has resigned as a trustee member. Writing in the London Review of Books (LRB) blog about her decision, Soueif says that it was in protest of the British Museums “immovability on issues of critical concern”, highlighting its British Petroleum (BP) sponsorship, treatment of workers, and lack of discussion over the issue of restitution in particular. According to the British Museums chairman of the board of trustees Richard Lambert, Soueif only announced her decision 20 minutes before a trustee meeting on 4 July.

“The world is caught up in battles over climate change, vicious and widening inequality, the residual heritage of colonialism, questions of democracy, citizenship and human rights,” she writes. “On all these issues the museum needs to take a clear ethical position.”

Soueif says that she first raised the issue of BPs sponsorship deal with the board in 2016. “It was an education for me how little it seems to trouble anyone—even now, with environmental activists bringing ever bigger and more creative protests into the museum,” she writes. Her criticism comes just a week after the British Museum announced that it had endorsed further sponsorship from the oil company next year for the major exhibition Troy, Myth and Reality (21 November-8 March 2020).

“This sort of support is vital to [the museums] mission,” said Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, at a press conference last week. “We continually aim to expand our list of corporate supporters and find new funding partners, although attracting new sponsorship is challenging in the current economic conditions.” But Soueif argues that “the sum of money that BP gives the museum is not unattainable elsewhere” and concludes that the museums wish not to alienate a section of the business community, “matters more than the legitimate and pressing concerns of young people across the planet”.

Soueif also finds fault in the British Museums response to the staffing issues that arose after the bankruptcy of the giant service provider company Carillion in January 2018. Museum staff who had been transferred to work for Carillion lost their jobs en-masse, with only 60 of 138 people remaining. Soueif says, “the museum would not even enter into discussions with the woRead More – Source


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