From The Telegraph:
Natural History Museum to review potentially ‘offensive’ Charles Darwin collection
An internal review in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests has led to an audit into some rooms and items
By Craig Simpson, 5 September 2020 • 7:00
The Natural History Museum will become the latest institution to review it’s [sic] collections after an audit warned its Charles Darwin exhibitions could be seen as “offensive”.
An internal review, sanctioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, has led to an audit into some rooms, statues, and collected items that could potentially cause offence.
It warns that collections which some may find “problematic” could include specimens gathered by Darwin, whose voyage to the Galapagos Island on HMS Beagle was cited by a curator as one of Britain’s many “colonialist scientific expeditions”.
Museum bosses are now desperately seeking to address what some staff believe are “legacies of colonies, slavery and empire” by potentially renaming, relabelling, or removing these traces in the institution.
The executive board told staff in documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph that “in light of Black Lives Matter and the recent anti-racist demonstrations around the world” the museum would undertake a review of existing room names and “whether any statues (or collections) or could potentially cause offence”….
An example of the new thinking to address perceived imperial connections to science was a paper penned by a curator and shared with staff, which claimed “science, racism, and colonial power were inherently entwined”.
The work further argues that “museums were put in place to legitimise a racist ideology”, that “covert racism exists in the gaps between the displays”, and as a result collections need to be decolonised.
The executive board of the museum is understood to be “very engaged with the many issues and questions it highlights”.
Legacies that may fall foul of the shift in opinion might be the exotic birds of Darwin and Captain Robert Fitzroy, as their shared journey to South American was [to?] “enable greater British control” of the region, according to the paper shared with staff.
The great naturalist Darwin also has a statue in the museum’s main hall, and a large wing named after him.
There could also be calls for specimens gathered by Sir Joseph Banks to be addressed, as the botanist sailed with Captain James Cook on the Endeavor voyage in the service of the British Empire.
…The painted ceiling contains visual depictions of plants “like cotton, tea and tobacco” which were “the plants that fuelled the British Empire’s economy”, according to the paper shared with staff in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.
The presence of a statue depicting Thomas Henry Huxley, known as Darwin’s Bulldog, could be questioned due to the scientist’s racial theories.
The museum holds one of the largest collections of items gathered by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish scientist who devised the Latin naming system of different species.
He thought Africans “indolent”, and his naming system could be seen as erasing indigenous terms for specimens then collected and renamed by European naturalists.
The flora specimens of British Museum founding father Sir Hans Sloane, who benefited from slavery in Jamaica, also form a large part of the collection.
Historical assemblages of items like Sir Hans’ Jamaican collection could be reviewed by the institution.
Michael Dixon, the director of the Natural History Museum, explained to staff: “The Black Lives Matter movement has demonstrated that we need to do more and act faster, so as a first step we have commenced an institution-wide review on naming and recognition.”
He added: “We want to learn and educate ourselves, recognising that greater understanding and awareness on diversity and inclusion are essential.”