The Edward Colston statue will go on display at the M Shed museum next month, nearly a year to the day since it was removed during protests in the centre of Bristol, as the city is asked what should happen to it next.
The exhibit will form part of a temporary display from Friday, 4 June with a survey, drafted by the We Are Bristol History Commission, being launched at the same time to canvass citizens’ views on the future of the statue.
Pulled down during the events of 7 June 2020, the statue will sit alongside a selection of placards from the Black Lives Matter protest of that day as well as a timeline of key events. An online version of the display and survey will be available for people who may be unable to visit M Shed.
To determine the next steps, the survey will ask Bristol’s citizens to share their thoughts on how they now feel about what happened that day and what they think should happen to the statue in the future.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “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.
“The Colston statue: What next? display at M Shed is a temporary exhibition which aims to start a conversation about our history. The We Are Bristol History Commission will be leading that conversation with citizens over the coming months.
“The future of the statue must be decided by the people of Bristol and so I urge everyone to take the opportunity to share their views and help inform future decisions by taking part in the survey.”
Feedback from the public survey will inform the History Commission’s recommendation on the long-term future of the Colston statue later this year. Responses will also be archived and made publicly accessible as a resource for researchers, schools and those who wish to learn more about Bristol's history and the city's links to the transatlantic traffic of enslaved African people and its present-day legacy.
Professor Tim Cole, Chair of the We Are Bristol History Commission and Professor of Social History at the University of Bristol, said: “The We Are Bristol History Commission has been working in partnership with the museum team to develop the display and the survey over recent months.
“This is an opportunity for everyone to have your say on how we move forward together. The display is not a comprehensive exhibition about Colston or transatlantic slavery in Bristol, but it is intended to be a departure point for continuing conversations about our shared history.’’
After its retrieval from the harbour, the conservation team at M Shed cleaned the statue and stabilised the spray paint graffiti to prevent flaking.
Fran Coles, Conservation and Documentation Manager at M Shed, said: "The aim of our conservation work was to stabilise the statue and prevent deterioration from the water and silt it had been exposed to.
“This will prepare the statue for whatever its future may be. M Shed’s role is to reflect the history and contemporary issues relating to Bristol, telling the stories that matter to the people of Bristol.
“Therefore, it is a very suitable location for this short-term display of the statue. It will enable visitors to take stock and make their own minds up concerning the future of the statue. The display and survey will also be online, helping to reach people across the city and beyond.”
M Shed entry is free, but visits must be booked in advance to keep the galleries COVID-secure. Visit bristolmuseums.org.uk