Our campaign so far
In October 2022, as the Museum opened a new BP-sponsored exhibition on Ancient Egypt, we called on it to speak out on human rights in Egypt today. A letter signed by more than 80 cultural figures and climate organisations urged the Museum to support the call for the release of British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah and all political prisoners in Egypt ahead of COP27. Activists staged a read-in of Alaa’s work as the exhibition opened and projected Free Alaa messages onto the Museum’s facade.
In April 2022 we sent a formal submission to British Museum trustees setting out how renewing the partnership with BP could breach the Museum’s own policies and conflict with standards governing the culture sector. The submission was backed by figures from the fields of climate science, archaeology, culture sector workers and the youth climate strike movement, and sets out ‘how the potential harm of signing a new sponsorship agreement with BP demonstrably outweighs the benefits and would be inconsistent with the museum’s commitments on sustainability’.
In February 2022 we revealed on Channel 4 News that the British Museum has a secretive ‘Chairman’s Advisory Group’ made up of representatives of corporations, including BP, that are given a direct line to the museum’s leaders behind closed doors. We also revealed that the museum’s director is actively pursuing renewal of the sponsorship deal with BP. At the same time, over 300 archaeologists wrote to the museum calling on it to drop BP.
In June 2021 we responded to the news that former Chancellor George Osborne would be the new chair of the British Museum by arguing that he is a completely unsuitable choice with clear conflicts of interest that mean he should have no say in deciding the future of the museum’s BP sponsorship deal.
In July 2019, Egyptian author and British Museum trustee Ahdaf Soueif resigned citing the museum’s intransigence on BP sponsorship, workers’ rights and the repatriation of artefacts taken in colonial times. Staff from the museum’s PCS union branch issued a statement in solidarity with her. The British Museum’s chairman took to national media to defend BP, and we debunked the misinformation he was spreading.
To coincide with the British Museum’s 2018 BP-sponsored exhibition I am Ashurbanipal: King of Assyria, King of the World, we worked in partnership with Platform and Campaign Against Arms Trade to publish a new briefing: ‘From War to Warming: the shameful story of BP in Iraq’.
At the start of 2018, we launched a new web resource – Crude Connections – to coincide with the British Museum’s BP exhibition Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia. It revealed how BP uses sponsorship and lobbying to boost its business in Russia.
In 2016, we published a report highlighting how the British Museum had broken its own ethics rules in renewing its partnership with BP. You can read it here.
BP Sponsorship of the British Museum
BP has been a sponsor of the British Museum since 1996 and is currently the title sponsor of the museum’s major exhibitions.
- The ‘BP Exhibitions’ allow the company to boost its brand by associating itself with the UK’s most visted cultural institution.
- As part of the redevelopment of the museum’s Great Court in 2000, BP gave money to create the ‘BP Lecture Theatre’ where the museum’s major events are hosted.
- BP uses the museum as the setting for its annual business reception, as well as many other private events where it entertains strategically important policy-makers.