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'Disobedient exhibition' and anti-BP letter kick up a media storm for British Museum

On Sunday April 3rd, Art Not Oil coalition member group BP or not BP? occupied the Great Court of the BP-sponsored British Museum with a 'disobedient exhibition'. Called 'A History of BP in 10 Objects', the exhibition featured artifacts submitted by frontline communities around the world who are fighting back against the impacts of BP's operations.

The group managed to hold the space all day, and hundreds of museum visitors and staff engaged with the exhibition, listened to talks and watched films about the objects. You can read a full report from the day here, and see the permanent online version of the exhibition - including photos, films and explanations of all the objects - at www.historyofbp.org .

On the same day, a letter was launched on the Guardian website - and in the paper itself on the following day - signed by 91 prominent figures from the world of arts, culture, science and politics, calling on the British Museum to drop BP. This letter was co-ordinated by the Art Not Oil coalition, and - like the exhibition - was timed to coincide with the arrival of the new British Museum director Hartwig Fischer, who took up his post on Monday.

Together, the letter and the exhibition have gathered a storm of media coverage, building up the pressure on the museum to end its dirty partnership with BP. As well as reports in the Guardian, Telegraph, Times, and a host of online arts and news sites, BBC London carried a report this morning from the museum itself [scroll to 1:37] with one of the letter's signatories, Jenny Jones; and a member of BP or not BP? was interviewed today by Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio.

Meanwhile, Newsweek has reported on a survey of British Museum staff by the PCS Union, that shows that a strong majority of British Museum staff are unhappy with the BP sponsorship:

"Sixty-two per cent of the British Museum’s own employees viewed the partnership with BP as unethical, with 66 per cent saying they support the aims of the protesters.

"'We think it [the partnership with BP] is an example of the commercialization and corporatization of our public museums and galleries. It is a neo-liberal, capitalist model, which we totally reject,' Clara Paillard, PCS president, tells Newsweek."

The British Museum says it is still in negotiations about the possible renewal of its BP deal. Will it do the right thing and #DropBP?

You can sign a petition to the British Museum's new director here.

Photo by Amy Scaife.