National Railway Museum feared star exhibits could be attacked by protesters

Churchill's funeral train in the National Railway Museum. Photograph: NRM
4 Oct 2020 @ 12.46 pm
| News

Some of the best-loved exhibits at the National Railway Museum could have been targeted by anti-racism protesters, bosses feared.

Both Winston Churchill’s funeral train, and the replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, were considered potential targets.

And museum bosses identified a number of other locomotives in the Leeman Road attraction that might be considered problematic in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

According to emails seen by the Telegraph, the NRM carried out a review in response to the BLM protests over summer which saw statues and other symbols of Britain’s colonial past targeted and, in some cases, damaged and destroyed.

The train that carried wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill from his state funeral in London to his final resting place in Oxfordshire is an exhibit they thought might attract “protest activity”.

That was because of Churchill’s links to “colonialism and empire”.

A statue of the war leader near parliament was defaced twice during demonstrations in June.

Rocket potential target

The replica of Stephenson’s Rocket at the museum

Other documents seen by the paper revealed concerns that Stephenson’s pioneering Rocket engine “could attract demonstrations over the locomotive’s association with the slave trade”.

Stephenson’s benefactors, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, had links to profits generated through slavery.

Engines named after former PM William Ewart Gladstone and Trafalgar hero Admiral Lord Nelson were also on a list of displays considered “challenging” in the wake of the BLM movement.

The Telegraph says that staff told NRM managers the institution’s collections are “inherently racist and colonialist” and “made up of many objects acquired through imperialism”.

A spokeswoman for the Science Museum Group, which runs the NRM, said: “A number of objects, including some of our treasured locomotives, were flagged during an internal discussion about potential targets for protest activity during the summer.

“No additional interpretation is being added for these locos, which continue to be firm favourites with our visitors.”