Open Letter Calls On British Museum to Drop BP Name

Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Open Letter Calls On British Museum to Drop BP Name

An open letter signed by 80 artists and activists including Nan Goldin draws parallels between the oil giant and the Sackler family, whose name has been removed from institutions worldwide.

Following BP’s announcement of more than £ 2 billions profits in Q2 of 2023, more than 80 artists, museum directors, writers and researchers, as well as climate groups, have written to the outgoing British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer, urging him to re-name the Museum’s BP Lecture Theatre as a final act before leaving his role next year.

The open letter in full :

Dear Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum,

We welcome the news that the British Museum’s existing sponsorship deal with the oil and gas company BP formally ended in February and has not been renewed. 

Last November, your Chairman George Osborne said that, ‘Our goal is to be a net zero carbon museum – no longer a destination for climate protest but instead an example of climate solution.’ We now urge you, as part of fulfilling that goal, to pledge that the Museum will accept no further funding from sponsors or donors involved in fossil fuel production. Multiple organisations have concluded that BP and other oil and gas producers are not aligned with a pathway to 1.5°C, the goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Partnering with such companies lends them an undeserved and dangerous social legitimacy and influence.

We know you have a vision of creating an inclusive museum that brings people, particularly young people, together. When the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) ended its own BP sponsorship deal, it acknowledged that, ‘Young people are now saying clearly to us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC. We cannot ignore that message.’ Any new partnership with the fossil fuel industry would put a clear barrier between the Museum and the visitors of tomorrow that you seek to welcome. 

However, opposition to BP’s sponsorship of the Museum in recent years was not just because the company’s current business plans do not deliver the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels we so urgently need, but also because its past record is one of huge emissions, environmental destruction and human rights violations. Over the 27 years that BP was a sponsor of the British Museum, it lobbied against crucial climate legislation, funded industry groups that spread disinformation, and profited from close ties to repressive rulers in countries such as Russia and Egypt. The British Museum continued to partner with BP even as its oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, while its gas flaring caused toxic pollution for communities in Iraq, and as climate impacts intensified around the world.

We therefore call on you to now disassociate the British Museum from this record of criminality and environmental destruction by removing BP’s name from the Museum’s lecture theatre. Just as cultural institutions around the world have removed the Sackler Family name as evidence of the harmful ways their money was made came to light, the damning evidence on BP’s past – and present – can no longer be ignored. Renaming the lecture theatre would send a powerful message about the future the Museum wants to see, by visibly allying itself with future generations.

Many of your peers across the culture sector have now cut their ties to fossil fuel sponsorship and are taking ambitious climate action. By pledging an end to funding from fossil fuel companies and by renaming the ‘BP Lecture Theatre’, you would be demonstrating the kind of climate leadership that is now so urgently needed, as the Museum seeks to move into a new era.

Kind regards,


  • Nan Goldin, Artist
  • Megan Kapler, Sackler PAIN
  • Katherine McAlpine, Director Brunel Museum
  • Will Attenborough, Actor
  • Leila Mimmack, Equity for a Green New Deal
  • Will Reynolds, Metta Theatre
  • Terry Macalister, Co-author of Crude Britannia: how oil shaped a nation
  • Dr Michael Hrebeniak, Convenor, New School of the Anthropocene
  • Marla King , Freelance dance artist and climate justice advocate 
  • Billy Taylor, Choreographer
  • Ackroyd & Harvey, Artists 
  • Natalie Abrahami, Theatre Director 
  • Fiona Cunningham-Reid, Documentary Films
  • Bayryam Bayryamali, BP or not BP?
  • Ruth Ben-Tovim, Artist
  • Jamie Peters, Fossil Free Team Lead, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Jason Scott-Warren, Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture, University of Cambridge
  • Mel Evans, Head of Climate, Greenpeace UK
  • Victoria Burns, National Coordinator, Culture Declares Climate and Ecological Emergency
  • Alice Tate-Harte, Collections Conservator, English Heritage 
  • Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie, Theatre Maker and Lecturer 
  • Areeba Hamid and Will McCallum, Co-Executive Directors, Greenpeace UK
  • David Wengrow, Professor of Comparative Archaeology, UCL 
  • Andrew Simms, Co-director, New Weather Institute
  • Miranda Massie, Director, Climate Museum (US)
  • Louise Hazan, Co-founder, Tipping Point UK
  • Professor Rodney Harrison, Professor of Heritage Studies, University College London 
  • David Tong, Global industry campaign manager, Oil Change International
  • Zak Coleman, Campaign Manager, SOS-UK
  • Mariam Kemple Hardy, Global Campaigns Director, Oil Change International
  • Elizabeth Bast, Global Campaigns Director, Oil Change International
  • Natasha Reynolds, Archaeologist, University of Bordeaux
  • Alex Kelly, Filmmaker, the Unquiet Collective
  • Toni Cottee, Administrator, RisingTideUK
  • Keval Bharadia, Founder, Revolutionary Reparations
  • Kitete Manala Moise, President, Build Peace and Development
  • Elle Glenny, Fossil Finance Organiser, Tipping Point UK
  • Izzie McIntosh, Campaigns & Policy Manager, Global Justice Now
  • Dr Mirjam S. Brusius, Research Fellow in Colonial and Global History, London; Project Facilitator, 100 Histories of 100 Worlds in 1 Object
  • Fi Quekett, Trans Climate Justice Advocate
  • Chase Coley, Director at Crab Museum
  • Lauren MacDonald, #StopRosebank
  • Francesca Willow, Dance Artist & Ethical Unicorn Founder
  • Caroline Vincent, PhD
  • Jessica Kleczka, Climate Psychologist
  • Elia Valentini, Senior lecturer, University of Essex
  • Sophie Renner, Lecturer in physics, University of Glasgow
  • Michael Lomotey, Doctoral researcher, Soton
  • Tori Tsui, climate justice activist
  • Richard Francksen, Research Associate, Newcastle University
  • Anita Hall, University teacher
  • Melinda Janki, Attorney-at-Law
  • Peter Knapp, PhD candidate, Imperial College London
  • J A Lovel, Retired
  • Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex
  • Florence Schechter, Director, Vagina Museum
  • Laura Young, Climate scientist and campaigner
  • Gaia Vince, Journalist and author
  • Jennifer Lord, MRC Fellow, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • Anya Nanning Ramamurthy, UKSCN London
  • Lynn Bjerke, Senior Scientific Officer, The Institute of Cancer Research
  • Jane Ripley, Science lecturer (East Sussex College Group/University of Brighton)
  • Heath Lowndes, Poppy Paulus Nicolas and Aoife Fannin, Gallery Climate Coalition, (GCC)
  • Claudia Campero, Activist
  • Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, UCL.
  • Emma de Saram, President of Exeter Students’ Guild
  • Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want
  • Bridget McKenzie, Director of Climate Museum UK
  • Tessa Khan, Uplift
  • Chris Garrard, Co-Director, Culture Unstained
  • Omar Robert Hamilton, Writer
  • Robert Noyes, Senior Campaigner, Platform
  • Sophie Neuburg, Executive Director, Medact
  • Meehan Crist, Writer in residence in Biological Sciences, Columbia University
  • Geoffrey Supran, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, University of Miami
  • Dr Juliette Brown, Consultant Psychiatrist and member of Medact
  • Gracie Bradley, Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland
  • The Fossil Free Pride Collective
  • Tommy Vickerstaff, UK lead at
  • Dr Vivian Latinwo-Olajide, Researcher


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