I agree with almost everything in Charlotte Higgins’ important article (I love the British Museum, but what I’ve learned about the depth of its crisis fills me with dread, 21 December). I too love the museum. Bad management in hard times has fuelled a lack of confidence. It fails to confront difficult issues with openness and honesty, one symptom being the absurd degree to which its extraordinary curatorial expertise is barely heard from, within and outside its walls. Another is the low public awareness of many of the good things it does achieve.
Behind this lies years of underfunding, as Higgins says, but unlike her, I would not demand that BP’s cash should be denied. For the museum, £50m is a large sum, signing intent for its transformative and essential reimagination that will cost many times that gift. For BP it is small. It will do nothing to alter its public reputation; most visitors are oblivious to sponsorship, and those more aware know their own minds. We live in a world built on oil. That is changing, but essential emissions targets will not be met without action from oil producers.
Colourful, principled protest may feel like help, but in reality it does more to allow the smug to brand change as the realm of the hypocritical and rude, when of course it is about us all. If you care about the future, support rapid green transitions – write to your MP (and BP), don’t object to windfarms, don’t spread scare stories about electric cars, use your vote to oust deniers and delayers, and consider your own lifestyle. And if you care about the British Museum, give it a pass on its efforts to survive.
Well done to the British Museum for securing funding for its redevelopment (British Museum’s BP sponsorship deal ‘astonishingly out of touch’, 19 December). While I condemn BP as a business promoting fossil fuels, I cannot condemn the museum for accepting its money. Culture Unstained, as one campaign group is called, risks meaning “culture unsustained”. BP’s sins are overt; scratch beneath the surface of any sponsor and you are likely to find links to environmental damage, exploitation or slavery. Neither this government nor the next will be putting more money into the arts and heritage. Culture is in crisis. Be wary, but if BP wants to give out largesse to enrich our culture rather than enriching its shareholders and directors, keep it coming. Don’t forget the ideal, but keep it real.
Charlotte Higgins is right to castigate the British Museum, but it is even worse than she suggests. In November 2021, the museum issued a press release on its sustainability ethos, boasting that “as a major UK visitor attraction, we are conscious of the impact of our activity on the environment. We are committed to reducing that impact and improving our sustainability throughout all aspects of the British Museum’s operation and supply chains, from energy usage to waste management.” I wonder where that claim fits with its acceptance of BP’s money?
Dr Richard Carter
Charlotte Higgins seems to fall to loose thinking when lamenting the acceptance of BP cash by the British Museum. I wonder if she will accept that the NHS is financed in part by BP cash paid in taxation as well as by many other polluters?