British Museum in racism storm after tweeting 'Asian names are confusing'

"We would like to apologise for any offence caused"


Tourists at British Museum in London

The British Museum has been engulfed in a racism storm after a tweet on its account said Asian names are sometimes cut out of their exhibition labels because they are "confusing".

An employee at the museum in London appeared to confirm that they are 'careful' about using too many Asian monikers, in case they cannot be understood by 16-year-olds.

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The museum was answering the question : "How do you go about designing exhibition labels and information that are accessible wider range of people?"

In their reply, 'Jane, Keeper of Asia', wrote: "Curators write the labels based on their specialist knowledge and they are edited by our Interpretation department...

Credits: @BritishMuseum/Twitter


Credits: @BritishMuseum/Twitter


"We aim to be understandable by 16 year olds. Sometimes Asian names can be confusing, so we have to be careful about using too many.

"We are limited by the length of labels. Dynasties & gods have different names in various Asian languages. We want to focus on the stories.

"E.g. the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy is known as Avalokitesvara in India, Guanyin in China, Kwanum in Korea and Kannon in Japan."

Immediately, the British Museum received critical responses from social media users who wrote: "This is a gigantic own goal. I strongly suggest you revise your approach here."

Rosetta Stone The British Museum

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum/PA

Another added: "Longer labels? Technology such as touch screens, audio recordings? So many ways round this. Don't blame the 16 year olds!"

Within a few hours, the museum tweeted an apology, writing: "We would like to apologise for any offence caused.

"Jane was answering a very specific question about how we make information on object labels accessible to a wider range of people.

"Label text is necessarily limited and we try to tell the object's story, as well as include essential information about what it is and where it is from.

"We are not always able to reflect the complexity of different names for e.g periods, rulers, gods in different languages and cultures on labels."

Detail of the exterior of the British Museum, London

The British Museum has caused controversy in the past for several disputed artefacts in its collection including the Elgin Marbles, Benin Bronzes and the Rosetta Stone.

Several organisations have demanded these object be returned to their respective native countries, Greece, Nigeria and Egypt.

In recent years, the museum has been asked to open its archives for investigation by a team of Chinese investigators tasked with finding several lost national treasures.

It's believed some important artifacts could have been taken from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing back in 1860 and historical buildings in China were ransacked and destroyed.

Nations including the British and the French were criticised for their plundering.

The museum claims that the British Museum Act of 1963 legally prevents any object from leaving its collection once it has entered.

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