The British Museum is no stranger to controversy. The centuries-old London institution has come under fire for everything from Opioid-linked financial backers to the artifacts it holds (a number of which were allegedly forcibly taken from their home countries during the British Empire).
But now the museum is embroiled in a fresh dispute, as it faces calls to stop accepting donations from the oil industry.
Culture Unstained has written to the British Museum’s board of trustees regarding its links to BP. The organization consists of cultural heritage experts, museum industry workers, and climate scientists. And, counts Sir Robert Watson, the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change among its members.
One of the world’s biggest oil and gas firms, BP is a sponsor of the British Museum. It has supported its Stonehenge exhibition for six years. But Culture Unstained maintains it is unacceptable for the museum to continue accepting the donations.
Culture Unstained states that the museum “clearly falls short of the scale and ambition of corporate responses that are now required.” The British Museum is evaluating whether to renew its deal with BP.
Moving away from oil industry donations
The museum isn’t alone in accepting money from the oil industry (which emits roughly one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions).
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the University of Oxford accepted at least £1.6 million from oil companies in 2020 and 2021. In the five years prior to 2020, it accepted £11 million.
But it is possible for these institutions to end their relationships with fossil fuel companies.
As Culture Unstained highlights, a number of UK cultural organizations have stopped accepting donations from oil industry giants. These include the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Per the Guardian, the letter continues: “The British Museum would be isolated both in its continued acceptance of sponsorship from a fossil-fuel-producing company and its lack of a clear ethical stance on this issue.”