The Royal Armouries Museum, headquartered in Leeds, has begun a review into displays that could be perceived to cause offence.
The Royal Armouries hold the UK’s national collection of arms and armour, and as such holds a large number of items used at different time periods throughout history. So, which displays from history are being objected to? Colonial uniforms from the centuries when the UK conquered the world? No. Then maybe medieval armour, which no doubt aided in some of the most brutal warfare known to man? Not that either.
The answer is riot gear. Riot gear and pepper spray.
While these items are not the sole subject of the review, they have been flagged as items that could cause ‘friction’ among communities. This of course comes in the wake of the widespread protests that took place in the summer of 2020, and their general anti-police message.
The central worry of the museum seems to be that the police equipment may be triggering to some minorities, despite there being nothing inherently racist about a piece of police equipment. Dr Zareer Masani, an author and specialist on Indian Nationalism said: “A museum display of items can’t be objectionable in itself.”
This reflects the broader view that the items are simply an object of fascination and do not present any aspect of admiration for the actions they may have been used for.
According to the Royal Armouries, though, the review process is something that takes place regularly in most museums and the organisation is simply taking into account the perspectives of some of its many visitors who view the collection each year.
It remains to be seen whether this review will actually result in the displays being changed, or whether the museum will back down and change its tune.