BP and the British Museum reach a £50 million funding agreement
Energy giant BP and the British Museum have reached a £50 million agreement to help finance a massive renovation initiative. In addition to announcing plans to upgrade one-third of the museum’s galleries and “transition out” its dependence on fossil fuels, the ten-year agreement was also disclosed.
Since 1996, when the relationship with BP began, climate activists have harshly criticised the company’s decision to accept funding from an oil and gas company. A particular group described the new agreement as “irrelevant” and “wholly unjustifiable.” It is not the first time that the British Museum’s ties to BP have been scrutinised.
In 2019, Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif tendered her resignation from the board of trustees, attributing her decision to the museum’s acceptance of funds derived from oil and gas.
In February 2022, over three hundred museum industry professionals signed a letter urging the institution to sever ties with BP. Additionally, demonstrations have been organised within the museum premises.
According to the minutes of a board of trustees meeting held at the British Museum on November 27, one member, Muriel Grey, resigned prior to a discussion regarding the forthcoming BP announcement. She stated that a personal choice was the catalyst for her resignation.
Amid objections, a number of prominent cultural institutions in the United Kingdom, such as the National Gallery and National Theatre, have terminated profitable sponsorship agreements with energy companies.
Chris Garrard, of the pressure group Culture Unstained, stated, “By burying your head in the sand, pretending the climate crisis isn’t happening, and ignoring the cultural sector’s near-total rejection of fossil fuel funding in recent years, you can still sign a new sponsorship deal with a planet-wrecking fossil fuel company in 2023.”
Some of the 200-year-old structures on the Bloomsbury site are in “urgent need of refurbishment” as part of the agreement between the museum and BP, according to Charlie Mayfield, chair of the British Museum’s masterplan committee.
Senior vice president of BP in Europe and the United Kingdom, Louise Kingham, stated that the organisation is “honoured to be a long-term partner to this significant British institution and to contribute to its future transformation.”
The announcement of additional funding and renovations follows a challenging period for one of the most renowned cultural institutions in the United Kingdom.
The museum declared the disappearance of several artefacts from its collection in August. It subsequently came to light that up to 2,000 objects remained unaccounted for.
The principal curator at the British Museum, Peter Higgs, is suspected by museum administrators of stealing the artefacts. His family told reporters in August that he was truthful and “devastated” to have lost his job, despite his prior denials.
The occurrence was extraordinarily humiliating for the museum, and antiquities experts criticised museum administrators for systemic flaws that prevented accurate records of the objects in their custody. The museum was recently directed by an independent evaluation to enhance its recording techniques.
According to a report by sources last week, deputy director Dr Jonathan Williams reached a voluntary resignation from his position subsequent to supervising an unsuccessful investigation into the robberies.
Former chancellor and current chair of the board of trustees at the British Museum, George Osborne, stated that the institution is “putting its affairs in order” by committing to implement the review’s findings.