Toppled statue of slave trader Edward Colston goes on display in Bristol

It is being shown as part of a consultation to decide on its future. Credit: ITV West Country

A controversial statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston will be displayed in Bristol from tomorrow.

The bronze figure was pulled down last year during a Black Lives Matter protest and thrown into the harbour.

On Friday 4 June, almost exactly a year since it was toppled, the statue will go on public display at the M Shed museum in the city alongside placards from the protest and a timeline of events.

The display, which has cost £8,000, is being shown as part of a consultation to decide on its future.

The statue was recovered from the water by Bristol City Council and put into storage before months of conservation work to preserve it.

The display also features placards from the Black Lives Matter protest. Credit: ITV West Country

The council says it is unable to stand upright and so is displayed lying on a wooden stand.

Ray Barnett, head of collections and archives at the council's culture team, said: "We needed to raise it up off the pallet it had come in on so it didn't damage itself under its own weight.

"We had this wooden structure made which supports it better so we can do the conservation work, and it then felt appropriate to present it in that same way.

"Yes we did concern ourselves with whether people would read something into this - lying in state perhaps or the reverse as though this was celebrating it somehow but that's not what we're trying to do here either way. We're just trying to present it as it is and say to the Bristol public 'how do you want to move forward?'"

The statue remains horizontal. Credit: ITV West Country

Members of the public are being asked by the We Are Bristol History Commission, which was set up following the protest, what should happen to it next.

Options include removing the statue from public view entirely, creating a museum or exhibition about the transatlantic slave trade, or restoring the statue to its plinth.

Dr Shawn Sobers, associate professor at the University of the West of England and part of the commission, said: "This display isn't trying to celebrate Colston or to try to commiserate the statue coming down, but as a museum of Bristol there's a responsibility to tell the different parts of what's happened and the history - and to try and put those moments into context.

The public are being asked to have their say on the future of the statue. Credit: ITV West Country

"For me, putting the statue on display isn't a celebration, but it is about trying to further understanding of this history.

"This is as much about education as it is about consultation. Colston's statue and the issues around it are much bigger than the statue itself.

"Racial inequality still exists, wealth and class disparities still exist, and these divides still exist very strongly in the city. We're not trying to suggest that because the statue's come down that those inequalities have disappeared. They're still very much present and we see this as one of the opportunities to be a different way into those conversations."

You can find more information and complete the survey from tomorrow on Bristol City Council's website.

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