Last edited 09 Oct 2020

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Institute of Historic Building Conservation Institute / association Website

DCMS Culture Secretary comments on HM Government position on contested heritage

Blairquhan Castle in Scotland was built by David Hunter Blair - part owner of a sugar estate in Jamaica with links to slavery and colonialism.


On 22 September 2020, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote to DCMS Arm’s Length Bodies to outline the Government’s position on contested heritage, noting that ‘the Government does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects’.

In the letter, the Government writes:

….the Government does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects. Historic England, as the Government’s adviser on the historic environment, have said that removing difficult and contentious parts of it risks harming our understanding of our collective past. Rather than erasing these objects, we should seek to contextualise or reinterpret them in a way that enables the public to learn about them in their entirety, however challenging this may be. Our aim should be to use them to educate people about all aspects of Britain’s complex past, both good and bad.

The full letter is available here.

Responses requested

The letter was sent to a number of national museums and galleries as well as other Arm’s Length Bodies and invited them to share what contested heritage means in the context of their organisation.

The full list of recipients is as follows: Arts Council England, British Film Institute, British Library, British Museum, Charity Commission, Churches Conservation trust, Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces, Horniman Museum, Imperial War Museum, Museum of the Home, National Archives, National Gallery, National Lottery Communities Fund, National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Museums Liverpool, National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum, Royal Armouries, Royal Museums Greenwich, Royal Parks, Science Museum Group, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Tate Gallery, V&A Museum and Wallace Collection.

This article originally appeared on the IHBC NewsBlog under the headline, 'Letter from DCMS Culture Secretary on HM Government position on contested heritage'. It was published on 6 October 2020.

--Institute of Historic Building Conservation

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