Saturday 25 May 2019

Guerrilla tours to protest climate change and ‘looted’ British Museum treasures

Campaigners also said the London museum should not accept money from oil giant BP.

A section of the Parthenon Marbles in London’s British Museum (Matthew Fearn/PA)
A section of the Parthenon Marbles in London’s British Museum (Matthew Fearn/PA)

By Craig Simpson, Press Association

Campaigners are launching guerrilla guided tours of “looted” objects in the British Museum in a protest against alleged colonialism.

Protesters will offer unofficial tours pointing out treasures they claim are being hoarded from indigenous communities around the world.

Campaigners have further claimed that the museum is accepting money from a company which is contributing to climate change.

The Parthenon Marbles are among the ancient works being highlighted by the campaign group BP Or Not BP, which takes issue with the international oil giant.

Palestinian, Iraqi, Greek and Indigenous Australian activists will offer their take on the alleged colonial “hoarding” of objects inside the British Museum in London.

The museum has defended its approach to culturally-significant objects and its sponsorship from BP, and said there will no increased security to deal with the protest tours on May 4.

BP Or Not BP said: “It’s time for the British Museum to stop hoarding colonially-seized treasures from communities crying out for their return.

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Activists from the pressure group BP or not BP at a previous protest in the Great Court of the British Museum in London against BP’s sponsorship of the exhibition I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria (John Stillwell/PA)

“The director and trustees of the British Museum can’t ignore these issues much longer.

“They need to start acting in the public interest and make amends for their colonial past, not cling grimly on to looted artefacts and a climate-wrecking sponsor.”

BP Or Not BP has previously claimed objects in the British Museum have been looted from Iraq and protested the ownership of an Indigenous Australian objects.

The group has claimed that BP is a polluting company and public institutions should not take their money.

The group will now protest for the return of marble statues from the Parthenon in Athens as part of the protest tour.

Campaigner Petros Papadopoulos said: “The return of the Parthenon Marbles is of paramount importance and I believe it can be achieved.”

The British Museum has countered claims of colonialism and said it is open to loaning objects kept in its collections.

It has also defended the use of BP sponsorship to support the global work done by the museum.

A spokesman for the British Museum said: “The long-term support provided by BP allows the museum to plan its programming in advance and to bring world cultures to a global audience.

“The British Museum takes its commitment to be a world museum seriously, sharing the collection widely, both abroad and in the UK.

“We are aware that some communities have expressed an interest in having objects on display closer to their originating community and we are always willing to see where we can collaborate to achieve this.”

The museum added that previous protests about Indigenous Australian work had led to constructive conversation. There will be no increase in security and the museum allows for protests on site.

BP have been contacted for comment.

Press Association

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