Museum of the Home: Diane Abbott backs schools’ boycott of museum over slavery statue row

·2 min read
 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has backed a boycott by schools of the Museum of the Home in Shoreditch in a 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.

The boycott, supported by teachers in Islington and Hackney, is part of a wider campaign calling for the statue’s removal from the front of the building which recently re-opened after a multi-million pound refit.

The MP for nearby Hackney North and Stoke Newington said “we should not be honouring the slavers and colonialists”.

In a statement due to be read at a meeting today, she said she wanted pupils to be taught “about the most shameful aspects of that history” and said she wanted to “encourage” and “support” the boycott which she said had “right and…the future” on its side.

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

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

The Museum declined to comment but has previously said it is “actively exploring options for the statue and listening carefully to all the issues raised with community and creative partners, including local schools”.

The boycott campaign 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.

Earlier this month, the City of London voted to keep two statues linked to the slave trade at their historic Guildhall headquarters.

The City had originally decided to take down the statues of William Beckford and John Cass but they will now stay and plaques explaining how they profited from the slave trade will be added to their monuments.

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