The British Museum is the latest institution to scrub from all public-facing surfaces the Sackler name, which has become indelibly linked to the global opioid epidemic that some members of the family profited enormously from and are accused of fueling via their company Purdue Pharma.
In an announcement today, the museum and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation jointly announced the decision, which will see the Sackler name removed from spaces and programmes that include one of the museum’s Mesopotamian artefacts, its Clore Centre conference complex and any endowments bearing the couple’s names.
In their joint statement, the museum and foundation make no reference to the opioid crisis, the Sacklers’ role in it or the recently proposed $6bn US bankruptcy settlement that would allow institutions to remove the family’s name regardless of the initial donation terms. Instead the decision is positioned as part of the museum’s plans to overhaul its facilities. “As the museum develops a new masterplan to transform for the future, we feel this decision comes at a unique moment in the Museum’s evolution,” the Trustees of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation said in a statement.
“The British Museum is grateful for the foundation’s past support, and the trustees appreciate their cooperation in coming to this agreement as we now move the museum into a new era and present our incredible collections in different ways for new audiences,” George Osborne, chair of the British Museum’s board of trustees, said in a statement.
The announcement gives no clear timeline for when exactly the Sackler name will be removed from the various places it appears. The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation provided funds for various galleries, educational facilities and research activities between the 1990s and 2013. Over the same period, the number of opioid-related deaths reported in the UK rose dramatically. The Sackler name will remain on the list of donors displayed in the museum’s Great Court, according to the New York Times.
The British Museum’s removal of the Sackler name follows a string of similar decisions by museums on both sides of the Channel and the Atlantic. In recent months Tate, the Serpentine Galleries and the Metropolitan Museum have all removed the family’s name from galleries and buildings. In 2019, following a protest by Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (Pain), a group founded by artist and opioid addiction survivor Nan Goldin, the Musée du Louvre removed any mention of the Sackler name from its galleries.