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Arms dealers in our museums?

A few weeks ago London CAAT got together with some people from Art not Oil to host a public meeting about corporate museum sponsorship. It was an inspiring day with a lot of passion in the room and some great ideas on how to challenge the unethical sponsorship deals some museums have. If you’d like to join the campaign, come to the next London CAAT meeting on November 15th!

image of a map of the world with small photos showing arms and oil company offices and the impact of some of their weaposn and environmental impacts

London CAAT and Art not Oil map the impacts of weapons and fossil fuels

Phil from London CAAT spoke for a bit about the campaigns London CAAT has been focused on with Airbus sponsoring the Science museum and Thales sponsoring the London Transport museum. Thales are the 12th largest arms company in the world and make such delightful item as mortar systems, rocket systems for helicopters and precision-guided munitions. They have used the museum to meet with Indian military groups and the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation, the government body responsible for promoting arms exports. We have challenged this deal with banner drops inside the museum, street theatre outside with Thomas the Tank Engine and the Fat Controller and our amazing Oyster card holders.

As for the Science Museum, the recent Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition was sponsored by Airbus, an even bigger arms company than Thales. The museum has also hosted the reception for the Farnborough arms fair. London CAAT has dropped paper helicopters in the museum bearing a message of opposition to the deal (cos Da Vinci invented the helicopter you know!) and held a Mona Lisa picture up outside the museum for people to put their head through. We were also part of the amazing protests during the recent Farnborough reception.

After Phil, Anna from Platform spoke about things that Art not Oil have been doing, and the current state of museum sponsorship in London. Some key points:

  • BP seem to be using their deal with the British museum to influence politicians – e.g. the ‘day of the dead’ festival about Mexico put on right before BP met with the Mexican government in the museum.
  • Museums are failing to address some of the major issues of our time such as climate change and feminism – they need to change, and corporate involvement in them isn’t helping.
  • Sounds like things are going well, in part thanks to a wide range of tactics and actions.

After the talks, we had an exercise of mapping out the different arms and oil companies, and which of our public institutions they have managed to associate themselves with across London, together with some of the consequences of the companies’ actions. So, linking together BP, its sponsorship of the British museum, and the environmental disasters it has caused in the gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. Here’s the finished product!

We had an open discussion about some of the issues brought to light by the map, and then moved onto some action planning. We split into three groups, focusing on the Transport Museum, the Science museum and the British Museum respectively. Using an excellent action planning checklist taken from London Palestine Action, we came up with ideas in our groups then fed back to each other. We had some great ideas for all three locations, with an obvious opportunity to collaborate with some kind of joint action at the Science museum in protest against both Statoil and Airbus sponsorship.

Want to get involved in future actions like this? Come to the next London CAAT meeting on Tuesday 15th November! London CAAT meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 6.30pm at the CAAT office, Unit 4, 5-7 Wells Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JU.  For more information or to request to be added to the group email list, email londoncaat(at)riseup*net. You can also find the group on Facebook and on Twitter.

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