United Kingdom

Oliver Dowden says museums must not be 'pushed around' by campaigners

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today warned UK museums they cannot allow themselves to be 'pushed around by the zeitgeist of the day'. 

Mr Dowden said the 'principal duty' of the nation's cultural institutions is to 'preserve and conserve our heritage'. 

He said some institutions feel like they have been 'bullied, particularly by left-wing campaigns'. 

Speaking at the Policy Exchange UK think tank's History Matters Conference, Mr Dowden said cultural organisations should act as 'custodians' of our cultural heritage and not seek to erase certain aspects of it.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the 'principal duty' of the nation's cultural institutions is to 'preserve and conserve our heritage'

Discussing his advice to museums and cultural institutions, he said: 'Don't allow yourself to be pushed around by the zeitgeist of the day.

'Take a longer-term view of things, make sure you do things in a rigorous way and understand that your principal duty is to preserve and conserve our heritage.'

He added: 'One of the things that prompted me to come into this debate in the first place was talking to some of the institutions who felt like they were being bullied, particularly by left-wing campaigns.'

His comments came after the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said in January that Britain should not try to edit or censor its past as he announced proposed changes to the law to better protect statues, monuments and other memorials.   

Mr Jenrick said any decision to remove heritage assets in England will require planning permission and a consultation with local communities, adding he wanted to see a 'considered approach'.

He wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: 'Our view will be set out in law, that such monuments are almost always best explained and contextualised, not taken and hidden away.'

The plans to change legislation came after the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston last year and a wider discussion on the removal of controversial monuments.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said in January that Britain should not try to edit or censor its past as he announced proposed changes to the law to better protect statues

Mr Jenrick said at the time that he had noticed an attempt to set a narrative which seeks to erase part of the nation's history, adding this was 'at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a "cultural committee" of town hall militants and woke worthies'.

Writing in the newspaper, he said: 'We live in a country that believes in the rule of law, but when it comes to protecting our heritage, due process has been overridden. That can't be right.

'Local people should have the chance to be consulted whether a monument should stand or not.'  

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