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BP-sponsored British Museum forced to close early because of heatwave

The British Museum had to shut early on Monday and Tuesday as temperatures in the UK exceeded previous records.

British Museum

BP has sponsored the museum since 1996. Image: Paul Hudson/flickr

The British Museum is facing renewed calls to drop BP as a sponsor after it was forced to close early because of the climate change-induced extreme heat.

The museum had to close at 3pm on Monday and Tuesday as London saw record-breaking temperatures of over 40C.

BP is a key sponsor of the British Museum, but the association has come under scrutiny recently, with climate activists urging the museum to end the partnership.

Chris Garrard of pressure group Culture Unstained told The Big Issue: “This should be a wake-up call for the museum’s board of trustees who, by cutting their ties to BP, could help to turn the tide on climate delay and inaction. 

“It will be a source of shame if, after weeks of record-breaking temperatures, the museum looks the other way and continues to let BP brand its next major exhibition, helping to deflect from the company’s role in fuelling climate breakdown.”

Tuesday saw the UK’s heat record go from 38.7C to 40.3C – an increase of 1.6C. Heat records usually only increase by decimal points. It sparked fires which led to the busiest day since the Second World War for London’s firefighters.

The record heat is a symptom of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels, with scientists agreeing that extreme weather events will continue to worsen unless emissions are rapidly cut.

Garrard added: “Around the world, climate impacts such as storms, wildfires and heatwaves have been intensifying for years, while fossil fuel giants like BP have continued to pour billions into extracting more oil and gas that we can’t afford to burn.

“But now that extreme weather has arrived at the British Museum’s own front door, impacting its staff and visitors.”

In April, hundreds of protesters from the group BP or not BP descended on the museum, in an attempt to highlight “all of the uncomfortable facts about BP that the British Museum is trying to ignore.”

The protesters held “mini protests” and installed new signs on “stolen” artefacts.

A spokesperson for the British Museum said: “The British Museum receives funding from bp, a long-standing corporate partner, to support the museum’s mission, providing public benefit for a global audience. Without external support much programming and other major projects would not happen. The British Museum is grateful to all those who support its work in times of reduced funding.

“The director and trustees think carefully about the nature and quality of sponsorship before accepting.”

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