British Museum’s new £50m BP deal

The British Museum, which was thought have cut its long-standing ties with BP, has shocked the culture sector and climate change campaigners by signing a new £50m deal with the oil giant.

The sponsorship deal, thought to be the largest in the museum's history, is to help finance a ten-year masterplan for the museum which its chairman, George Osborne, expects to cost £1bn.

Architects are to be invited to tender next year for the scheme which is to include an energy centre funded by the government, a renewal of a third of its galleries and a new archaeological research centre due to open next summer.

The range of galleries to be renewed includes those housing the Parthenon Marbles and the Rosetta Stone in respect of which there are demands for repatriation from Greece and Egypt.

 “A new multi-year partnership with BP will support the future transformation of the museum by contributing £50m over 10 years” said a BM statement. “The partnership will also help deliver on plans to maintain public access for generations to come. The museum is very grateful for BP’s support at this early stage of the masterplan.”

The statement also said that the project would involve “the introduction of contemporary architecture and innovative gallery displays, alongside sensitivity towards the need to respect and restore the highly significant and celebrated listed buildings”.

The museum had ended a 27-year exhibition sponsorship partnership with BP last year, after other cultural institutions, including Tate and the National Portrait Gallery, had cut long-standing links.

Climate change campaigners that have lobbied for theBM to sever its association with the oil company for  more than a decade, were outraged by the announcement, with Chris Garrard of Culture Unstained describing the decision as “astonishingly out of touch and completely indefensible”.

The museum said the decision was approved unanimously by trustees, but there are reports of at least one resignation from the board over the deal.

“The British Museum is one of the largest and most visited cultural institutions in the world but some of its buildings are over 200 years old and in urgent need of refurbishment” said Charlie Mayfield, chair of the British Museum’s masterplan committee. “That’s why the masterplan is so essential – and it’s exciting to be moving forward with our plans.”

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