Family forces museum to take down exhibit in row over slavery statue

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T

he Museum of the Home has been forced to take down an exhibit in a row over the continued presence of a statue of a slave trader on its site.

The Hoxton-based museum, formerly known as the Geffrye Museum, is in former almshouses built with money from Sir Robert Geffrye who made his fortune in the slave trade.

His statue stands outside and its presence has prompted a boycott of the museum by local teachers as well as regular protests campaigning for its removal.

The family of east Londoner Pat Robbins were so offended by the statue they asked the museum to remove her photograph from its galleries.

The statue of Sir Robert Geffrye outside the Museum of the Home

/ Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The picture, which showed the pensioner at her home in Wanstead with the Syrian refugee family that looked after her in her final years, had been on show in the museum with an audio installation explaining her story.

Her son Glyn Robbins said the refugee family lived with his mother for seven years before her death in 2019.

He said: “Mum had Alzheimer’s and the family cared for her with a love money can’t buy.

“She provided them with a home and they became part of our family.”

He said he was initially pleased to see the photograph on show until he heard about the statue.

Mr Robbins said: “We had various discussions with them, arguing that the photo, with all its human qualities, is incompatible with the commemoration of a slaver.

“So we have said they need to choose between the statue and the photo. They’ve chosen the statue and say they’ll remove the photo – a shockingly bad decision by an institution claiming to be anti-racist.”

The museum said it plans to move the statue to a less prominent site in its grounds and its Director Sonia Solicari said she was “confident” a planning application to do that would be lodged soon.

In an email to Mr Robbins, she said they agree to remove the photograph with “great regret and sadness” and hoped it could be displayed again after the statue was moved.

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