Museum of the Home reopens in protest against statue of owner of slave ship | Museums
The reopening of the Museum of the Home in London met with protests on Saturday calling for the removal of a statue of the slave ship owner Robert Geffrye following an intervention by the Secretary of Culture to keep it in place.
The museum in Shoreditch, east London, wanted to knock down the statue of the 17th-century trader and former mayor of London, who made part of his fortune from the slave trade, from the facade of his building.
But he decided not to do so after the charity’s trustees received a firm letter from Oliver Dowden last summer, who warned museums to “conserve and explain” the controversial statues.
As the doors of the Grade I listed building, formerly known as the Geffrye Museum, reopened on Saturday morning after a three-year renovation, residents, activists and politicians, including Labor MP Diane Abbott, responded that ‘Geffrye must fall “.
In a speech to the museum at the Hackney Stand Up To Racism protest, Hackney North MP and Stoke Newington accused its chairman of the board, Samir Shah, of giving in to government pressure.
Abbott said: “It’s not too late for Samir to show he has a little more principle than someone who, when ministers say ‘jump’, says ‘how high?’. So I call on Samir Shah and the leaders of this museum to knock down this statue, to listen to the community.
“Remove this statue because, as we say today, Geffrye must fall.”
During a public consultation of more than 2,000 people, the majority of those questioned declared themselves in favor of the removal of the statue.
The mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said the museum’s board had “turned their backs not only on Hackney, not just on fighting racism, but also on its own staff. We know their staff don’t want this statue to have this important place on Kingsland Road in this museum and all that it symbolizes ”.
He added: “It represents blood and murder and exploitation over the centuries and it should not be in 21st century Hackney in a prominent position above this museum.”
It comes amid a growing row around controversial statues across the country – including the University of Oxford’s decision to keep a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College, despite an independent commission supporting its withdrawal.
Speaking at Geffrye’s protest, singer and activist Jermain Jackman said he is “traumatized every time I walk past and see an individual, a statue of an individual, glorified, immortalized” on Kingsland Road.
“In such a diverse borough, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country, in a borough that elected its first black female MP, we still have a statue of a slave trader in Hackney.”
Patrick Vernon, social commentator and activist for Windrush, said: “I wish Boris Johnson and Dowden would come to a slave port and see the horrors of this man and many others who profited from the genocide of my ancestors . “
On its website, the museum cites “new legal guarantees” for historic monuments announced in January by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, adding: “In view of this, the council believes its initial decision [“to keep and explain” the statue] is the only practical option for the foreseeable future.
He adds that the board of trustees and the museum “continue to review, discuss and explore options for the statue” and that he has installed a sign near the statue to tell a “more complete story of Geffrye , including its links to the forced labor and trade of enslaved Africans, and acknowledging that the statue is the subject of much discussion ”.
In a statement, the House Museum said on Saturday that it would “fully support the public’s right to peaceful protest” and that the debate over the statue “raises important questions.”
He added: “The museum continues to listen attentively to any questions raised and is committed to being open to Geffrye’s story on site and online and to confronting, questioning and learning uncomfortable truths about the origins of the buildings. of the museum.
“Along with the statue debate, the museum has embarked on a transformative program of structural and cultural change to become truly representative and inclusive, through our new galleries and exhibitions, our creative programming, our partnerships and our workforce. artwork. “