The museum initially planned to send objects from its stores, excluding works that were on display or were likely to be shown. But the loans now include important pieces that the museum classes among its 5,000 “highlights” (these items are lent to international exhibitions, but nearly always on a short-term basis, usually three to six months). Critics are likely to ask whether so much should be lent to the Gulf for so long. 1
The British Museum came under fire earlier this year with its decision to loan the statue of The River God Ilissos to the Hermitage Museum in Russia. It will now proceed with a new loan of items which will include Assyrian, Greek, Byzantine and Japanese treasures.
So far the British Museum has chosen to loan items to institutions in Russia and Abu Dhabi, defying possible dangers with regards to their safe return. It has been reported that the museum will receive a large sum for its loan to the Zayed National Museum.2 It is also worth noting that the Zayed National Museum has been accused of being built using a system of modern slavery, whereby the migrant workers are deprived of their passports, made to live in squalid conditions and often have to work for a year before their recruitment fees are paid off. 1
For so long the British Museum has enjoyed the image of a benevolent institution wishing to educate and share its collection of artefacts with the world, but now this image is becoming tainted as the museum’s choices indicate that the institution is above all an enterprise and one willing to turn a blind eye to the violation of human rights.