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Museum Visitors Will Help Decide Fate of Statue

Likeness of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled last year in England
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 3, 2021 2:31 PM CDT

(Newser) – A statue of a 17th-century slave trader that was toppled during anti-racism protests in the English city of Bristol is being displayed in a museum, where visitors will be asked to help decide its fate, per the AP. The bronze likeness of Edward Colston was pulled from its pedestal and dumped in Bristol harbor a year ago, sparking a nationwide debate about which historical figures deserve commemoration and about Britain’s slave-trading history. City workers hauled the statue out of the water and have kept it in storage ever since. The battered, paint-splattered statue is going on public display Friday at Bristol’s M Shed museum alongside placards from the June 7, 2020, protest. It will be on show until Sept. 5, and visitors will be asked to complete a survey about “what happened that day and what you think should happen next,” the museum said.

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Responses will go to the We Are Bristol History Commission, which was set up after the protest. Options include removing the statue from public view, creating a museum or exhibition about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and restoring the statue to its plinth in the center of the city. Some Bristolians have criticized toppling the statue as an act of historical vandalism, while others welcomed the removal of what they see as a stain on their community. Colston was a 17th-century trader who made a fortune transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. His money funded schools and charities in Bristol, and his name adorned streets, schools, and major buildings in the city 120 miles southwest of London. Many have been either renamed or made the subject of ongoing debate.

(Read more statues stories.)

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