At a time when the world is waging a war and demonstrating against racism, cultural appropriation and race-based crimes, the London-based British Museum has removed the bust of its ‘slave-owning founder’ from prominent display. It has said that it acknowledges the museum’s history and relationship with slavery.
It is said that Sir Hans Sloane had founded the museum. According to a story in The Independent, he had funded his collection of artefacts, books, curiosities, etc., with the profits he had made from his wife’s sugar plantation. Before he had died in the year 1753, he had surrendered most of his belongings to the country. And 71,000 of his personal items had then formed the bulk of stock at the British Museum.
Now, it has come to the fore that his bust has been removed from prominent display at the museum and will now be placed in a ‘secure cabinet’. Additionally, in his description, it will be written that Sloane was “a collector and slave owner”, and the artefacts on display will explain his work in the “exploitative context of the British Empire”, the outlet reports.
This bust depicts Sir Hans Sloane, who bequeathed his collection to the nation in 1753. The collection of objects, books, and natural history specimens became the foundation of the British Museum.
— British Museum (@britishmuseum) August 22, 2020
“We have pushed him off the pedestal. We must not hide anything. Healing is knowledge. Dedication to truthfulness when it comes to history is absolutely crucial, with the aim to rewrite our shared, complicated and, at times, very painful history. The case dedicated to Hans Sloane and his relationship to slavery is a very important step in this,” museum director Hartwig Fischer has told The Telegraph.
The museum is set to open its doors to the public once again on August 27. It had recently undergone the biggest deep-cleaning in decades, to do away with the dirt and dust that had accumulated in the period of lockdown. A team of experts was tasked with the cleaning job, so as to ensure there is no surface damage to the museum’s exhibits by potentially dangerous dust particles. It had taken over 30 staff members more than three weeks to clean the collections.