Hackney Stand Up To Racism protesters outside the Museum of the Home last August

The Museum of the Home’s board is sticking by its controversial decision to retain a slaver statue above the entrance ahead of next month’s reopening.

The Hoxton institution has faced intense criticism since its announcement last year that it would “recontextualise” the statue of Robert Geffrye where it stands, despite its own consultation finding a majority of local people want it taken down.

The likeness of Geffrye, a 17th-century English merchant who made some of his money from the transatlantic slave trade, was originally erected to commemorate his funding of the almshouses that now host the Museum.

A Museum of the Home representative said: “The Board believes that its original decision to keep and explain the statue of Robert Geffrye in its current location on the Museum building is the only practical option for the foreseeable future.

“The Museum of the Home will reopen with many more diverse and representative stories of home. We will also address the impact of colonialism in the context of what home means to people today, through our exhibitions, collections, objects and programming.

“We will be open about the history of Geffrye on site and online and confront, challenge and learn from the uncomfortable truths of the origins of the Museum buildings.”

A protester painted the hands of the statue red in October last year

Hackney Stand Up To Racism last year launched a petition calling for the statue’s removal, which has so far garnered more than 7,000 signatures.

The petition reads: “Take him off the front of the building and perhaps stick it down in the basement of the Museum as an exhibit where we can teach children about how horrible the slave trade was.”

A representative of the campaign group told the Citizen: “The movement against slave trader statues is often dismissed as a desire of cancel culture, or to ignore history. Actually, it’s a call for more history and full transparency.

“I believe that a museum has a duty to tell the full truth about history.”

The museum’s public consultation found that 71 per cent of more than 2,000 respondents supported the statue’s removal. However, it was decided in July 2020 that the museum would keep it where it is.

The decision was reinforced six months later when communities secretary Robert Jenrick announced new national measures to prevent the replacement or removal of historic monuments without full planning permission.

This came a few months after documents released by the Museum revealed the pressure it came under from the government to keep the statue in place.

Last October, a protester vaulted the Museum’s gates to paint the hands of the statue red.

The Museum of the Home will reopen its doors on 12 June in line with the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

It has announced a programme of events and workshops celebrating the Windrush generation, inspired by its new permanent installation, the 1970s room, which has been funded by a £15,500 grant from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Support us

The coronavirus outbreak meant that the Hackney Citizen was unable to print a monthly newspaper for three months.

We're grateful that we have since been able to resume printing. This would not have been possible without the generosity of our readers, whose donations kept the paper from disappearing completely at a distressing time for residents.

A huge thank you to everyone who gave their time and money to support us through the lockdown, and to those who continue to do so as we slowly recover from the dramatic fall in advertising revenues, on top of the existing challenges threatening the future of local journalism.

A one-off donation or a regular contribution from anyone who can afford it will help our small team keep the newspaper in print and the website running in the coming months and years.

Find out how you can donate.

Thank you for your support, and stay safe.

The Hackney Citizen team