The Museum of the Home faces boycott in slavery links row

·2-min read
The building, previously known as the Geffrye Museum, is based in former almshouses (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The building, previously known as the Geffrye Museum, is based in former almshouses (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Museum of the Home in Shoreditch faces a boycott by schools amid the row over its links to slavery.

The building, previously known as the Geffrye Museum, is based in former almshouses built with money from Sir Robert Geffrye, who made his fortune in the slave trade and whose statue stands outside.

Teachers in Haringey, Hackney and Islington have backed plans to boycott the museum, which recently reopened after a multi-million-pound refit, as part of a campaign calling for the statue’s removal.

Sir Robert Geffrye (Alamy Stock Photo)
Sir Robert Geffrye (Alamy Stock Photo)

Haringey National Education Union members voted unanimously to call upon the museum to move the statue “to a more appropriate place”.

A spokesman said: “We are urging schools in Haringey to boycott the museum until this has been resolved. Many headteachers are members of the National Education Union and many of our members are also parents. Families in Haringey might not wish to send their children on such a trip once they are aware of the issues. If, in the light of all this, a school was determined to organise a visit, then union members in that school would meet and decide what they should do.”

The boycott is a blow to the museum, which has suffered from reduced visitor numbers due to the pandemic.

It had wanted to take down the statue but trustees changed their mind after receiving a letter from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden saying he wanted museums to “retain and explain” controversial exhibits.

The museum said: “The Museum of the Home is actively exploring options for the statue and listening carefully to all the issues raised with community and creative partners, including schools. We welcome these important conversations and are committed to being open about the history of Geffrye on site and online and to confront and learn from the uncomfortable truths of the origins of the museum buildings.”

It is part of a wider debate in the so-called culture wars, which have seen statues toppled and rows over the Black Lives Matter movement.

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