United Kingdom

Museum curator who sparked fury for posting guide on vandalising statues leaves job

An Oxford-educated museum curator who sparked outrage after tweeting a guide about vandalising statues has left her job after an independent review.

American-born Madeline Odent posted messages to her 5,000 Twitter followers in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement explaining how they could use household goods to permanently damage monuments.

A police probe was launched after she revealed that covering bronze busts in 'a tone of tomatoes' could irreparable damage them and make them impossible to display.

 Mrs Odent is no longer employed, but the council had refused to say if she was fired or quit — despite previously saying it 'condemns all criminal acts including damage to statues and monuments and incitement to commit unlawful acts'. 

Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol pulled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston to the ground on June 7 of this year, before dumping it in the nearby harbour

Mrs Odent provoked outrage when she shared advice online about defacing statues

The American also failed to clarify, telling her followers: 'They are not commenting because they can't and neither can I. Anyways, I don't work for them anymore.' 

Mrs Odent appears to have stopped working for the council at the end of August. She revealed she had a new job but declined to comment further.

Royston Town Council probed Mrs Odent after condemning her tweets, adding that her position would be reviewed following the next full council meeting.

A spokesman said: 'Royston Town Council deplores and condemns all criminal acts including damage to statues and monuments, and incitement to commit unlawful acts.

'The council has instigated an external independent enquiry into the recent use of social media by one of its employees.

Mrs Odent published a string of tweets disclosing how to create maximum damage to statues 

Mrs Odent is no longer employed but the council has refused to say if she has been sacked or quit – despite previously saying it 'condemns all criminal acts including damage to statues and monuments and incitement to commit unlawful acts (pictured, the museum)

The full statement by Royston Town Council issued in response to the controversy

'This will ensure that the process is completed free from any political influence and should provide a fair and measured conclusion.

WHO IS MADELINE ODENT? 

Glamorous curator Madeline Odent, whose maiden name was Madeline Briggs, comes from a wealthy family of American academics and is married to a banker.

The privately-educated curator claims to speak English, Spanish and Welsh. On her social media profile, she says that she brings an 'entrepreneurial mindset to the museum industry'.

Born in the United States, Madeline – known to her family as 'Maddy' – has two sisters, Morgan and Meredith. Her father, Dr Stephen Briggs, a personality psychologist, is the president of Berry College, a private liberal arts college in Georgia. He and her mother, Brenda Morgan Briggs, are old university friends.

Mrs Ordent went to Darlington High School, a private, co-educational boarding school in Georgia. Set in 500 acres of land, the school is based on the English public school system.

After graduating, the firebrand curator attended Stetson University, a private college in Florida, where she became president of the Honor Council and was a keen rower. In 2013, she was named a National Scholar Athlete by the Collegiate Coaches Rowing Association.

In 2014, she graduated with a BA in History, before moving to Britain and taking an MPhil in Early Modern British History at Oriel College, Oxford, two years later.

Pursuing her passion for rowing, she often coxed at Oxford. In one slightly jarring incident, she was sanctioned by university officials even though she claims to have done nothing wrong.

On completing her studies, she returned to the United States, working as a barista in a coffee shop in Georgia. She was then given a job at Berry College, where her father is president, as assistant rowing instructor.

In 2017 she married prominent banker Pascal Odent. The couple staged two lavish ceremonies, one in an English country house and the other in the opulent surroundings of her father's college in Georgia, which sits in 26,400 acres of magnificent landscaped gardens.

The new Mrs Odent went on to spend a year as a self-employed freelance researcher in London, before landing a job as curator and manager at Royston Museum, Hertfordshire, in August 2018.

Since commencing her role in Royston, Mrs Odent has introduced a radical agenda to the museum's scheduling, including a 'Drag Queen Story Time' session. She has a fondness for corgis. 

'The appropriate authorities should investigate any views that express criminal intent. The next full meeting of the council will agree any further action in respect of this matter.'

The meeting was held last month, but the authority is refusing to discuss what took place. However, the Royston and District Museum website now lists the curator role as vacant.

In a statement the council said: 'An employer's relationship with its employees, both past and present, is a private matter between the employer and employee. Royston Town Council would ask for that to be respected.

'The Council will not engage in speaking publicly about confidential individual staff matters.'

The furore began in June when the Oxford-educated curator, who comes from a wealthy family in Georgia and is married to banker Pascal Odent, tweeted her comments days after protesters in Bristol toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.

She wrote: 'From an art perspective, it's honestly fine to throw paint on memorials of genocidal racists! Paint is pretty easy to clean off.

'What would be an absolute shame is if people threw certain household items that cause irreversible bronze disease. Of course then the artefact can't really be on display...

'Because, like, if somebody were to throw a ton of tomatoes at a bust of a genocidal racist, nobody would probably notice the chemical reaction until it was too late to save the artefact.'

The thread ended with an image of graffiti referring to Winston Churchill as a racist.

Critics messaged the council, with one saying: 'Your museum manager appears to be very clearly inciting the criminal damage of monuments.'

A petition calling for Mrs Odent's removal was also signed by more than 800 people.

Local Tory MP Oliver Heald said he had been bombarded with messages from locals, adding: 'I deplore criminal damage to national monuments and statues in public places... It is important to respect the rule of law and there is a democratic and lawful process to remove statues.

'I condemn providing information on how to destroy statues. This is completely unwarranted and wrong and reports of these tweets have caused outrage locally.' 

Hertfordshire Police later revealed they had given 'strong words of advice' following the tweets but no further action was taken her.

After graduating with an MPhil from Oxford University, Mrs Odent returned to the United States where she worked for a year as an assistant rowing instructor at Berry College, where her father is president. 

In 2017, she married banker Pascal Ordent in two lavish ceremonies, one in an English country house and the second in her father's luxurious college in the United States. 

Since taking up her role at Royston Museum in 2018, Mrs Odent, who studied at a private university in Florida before moving to Britain to pursue a postgraduate course in history at Oxford, has introduced a radical agenda to the sleepy Hertfordshire establishment.

In February, she scheduled a 'Drag Queen Story Time' event, writing on Facebook: 'If you're introduced to difference in a positive way, you'll respond to difference in a positive way. Thrilled to be putting this on.' The event has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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