Culture Beyond Oil Spills Inside British Museum: Activism or Terrorism?

BP oil disaster strikes British MuseumA group of three people dressed in black veils entered the British Museum and solemnly spilled an oil substance near the iconic Eastern Island Moai statue as a form of protest against BP for the Gulf Oil spill disaster. According to blog Culture24 they choose the Hoa Hakananai because of “its fabled links with the sudden demise of reputedly strong civilisations.”

BP is a major sponsor for the British Museum as well as other art institutions including the Tate and Royal Opera.

Says activist Ben Cooper: “Just like the forests on Easter Island, oil represents a resource being over-exploited despite massively increasing risks. “

“With our relentless search for oil we are risking the collapse of the ecosystems on which we depend just as the inhabitants of Easter Island did 2,000 years ago.”

It is certainly a high profile attack on the British Museum and was covered across the papers in London today.

Is it fair pressure to put on the Museum though, especially when they are trying to deal with potential major funding cuts?

Should Museum management be forced to vet companies that they take money from? Where would you need to draw the line then–would some of their bank or law firm supporters also merit protest and attack within the Museum itself? (see the list of BM global sponsors here). And what about all the BP pensioners, should there be protests in their homes?

I think it is absolutely fair enough to protest BP, but it should never be inside the Museum. It is simply too risky have random activity near such priceless objects. Museums are not organized to deal with this type of threat–even if done “responsibly” (by masked people). We don’t want to have Museums forced to implement airport-level security. This “Culture Beyond Oil” group could have made a protest outside the Museum gates. While provocative and flashy, this particular stunt was enormously irresponsible.

Perhaps it is also time to consider the debate as to whether or not the British Museum should still be free to access.

If the Museums were more directly connected with admissions fees, perhaps they would be less reliant on Sponsors to top-up their revenues.

The Museum is now facing a discussion with the Government about dramatic funding cuts up to 30%.

Adding more security costsis not at all going to help the public explore the vast and amazing collection.

On the right,submissions to the Greenpeace “Behind the Logo” competition to redesign the BP logo.