London, United Kingdom: While municipal officials debate its fate, a contentious statue of a 17th-century British slave trader that was toppled in June in Bristol will go on temporary exhibition in a museum.
During a Black Lives Matter event in the southwest English city on June 7, the bronze statue of Edward Colston, a former top officer of the Royal African Company, was torn down.
It was dragged across the city and dropped in the harbor after protests in various British cities and around the world over the death of George Floyd in US police custody the previous month.
Four persons will face criminal damage charges later this year after pleading not guilty.
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing through difficult legislation that would increase the penalties for damage of historical artifacts.
The monument was recovered from the harbor, and a conservation team from the M Shed, a local museum, cleaned it and stabilized spray-painted graffiti to keep it from flaking.
It will now be the focal point of a temporary exhibition at the museum that will open next Friday, almost a year to the day after it was demolished, and will include protest posters and a timeline of major events.
Meanwhile, Bristol’s city council will conduct a survey to gauge public opinion on what should happen to the statue.
The exhibition and study aim “to initiate a debate about our history,” according to Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who earlier characterized its fall as a “piece of historical poetry.”
In response to the incident, Rees established the We Are Bristol History Commission in September, promising to “lead that conversation with citizens over the coming months.”
“The 7 June 2020 is undoubtedly a significant day in Bristol’s history and had a profound impact not just in our city but also across the country and around the world,” he said.
“The future of the statue must be decided by the people of Bristol,” Rees added, urging all residents to participate.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF MARVIN REES VIA TWITTER