Imagine starting your first day of an exciting new job with a personal letter from such luminaries as Emma Thompson and Mark Ruffalo.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? Not if you’re Dr. Hartwig Fischer—and especially not if the letter is from a cadre of actors, activists and politicians urging you to cut ties with one of your major funders.
Such is the case with the British Museum, where Fischer took over recently as its director.
The letter, which was published in The Guardian, urged Fischer to end the museum’s relationship with British Petroleum, which has lent its financial support since 1996.
BP is the museum’s longest-standing corporate sponsor. If there’s anything museum directors hate, it’s letting cash cows die.
The letter calls BP’s business practices “unethical.” It reads, in part:
BP’s business plan is incompatible with a stable climate, and the company is using its influence to lobby against effective climate policies.
Meanwhile, its operations are affecting lives and livelihoods across the world. The company was recently hit with the biggest criminal fine in US history for its gross negligence in causing the Deepwater Horizon spill.
To receive sponsorship from BP is to condone these business practices.
The letter isn’t the only opposition that Fischer has faced. A group of activists also tried to spoil Fischer’s first day with a protest in the museum’s lobby.
The British Museum offered the following noncommittal statement to Newsweek:
We are grateful to BP for their long-term commitment, sharing the vision that our artistic programmes should be made available to the widest possible audience. Discussions regarding the renewal of the partnership are continuing.
BP hasn’t yet commented on the situation.
London’s Tate gallery announced last month that it would end its relationship with BP in 2017 amid similar protests.
A BP spokesperson said of that relationship:
The decision to end our contractual relationship with the Tate has been a very difficult one. It reflects the extremely challenging business environment in which we are operating.
We have seen the Tate’s extraordinary growth and success and we are proud to have played a small part in that.