Museum sparks fury after changing name to be more 'inclusive'

The Museum of East Anglia has been stripped of its regional heritage as it was deemed 'irrelevant'

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The Museum of East Anglia has been renamed the Food Museum following a shift toward sustainability and food production.

Since the rebranding the museum has faced backlash, with a petition claiming to "save" the museum from a cultural shift reaching 1,889 signatures.

Suffolk writer and collector, Matthew Attwood, started the petition against the change claiming the museum is a "cherished part of local culture".

In an interview with BBC Radio Suffolk, Mr Attwood called for clarity over the name change. After a recent meeting with Jenny Cousins the director of the museum, he was informed that East Anglia is a "difficult concept" and "irrelevant".

The Food Museum aims to celebrate where food originates from enabling people to connect with their environment and take sustainable actions.
The Food Museum aims to celebrate where food originates from enabling people to connect with their environment and take sustainable actions.

Comparing the museum to The Museum of Cornish Life, Mr Attwood acknowledged that other museums across the UK take pride in obtaining their namesake from their location.

The museum attracted around 39,000 visitors each year prior to the pandemic.

Mr Attwood added: "It's impossible to imagine the people of Cornwall accepting that the Museum of Cornish Life is somehow confusing or lacking relevance, or something similar happening at the Yorkshire Museum or the Museum of Lancashire.

"But East Anglian's feel a similar sense of pride in their region, its unique history and beautiful landscapes.

"What's got people so upset is that the people who are meant to be at the forefront of preserving our heritage seem at best ignorant of it and at worst hostile to it".

The museum stated that its rebranding comes after a new focus "to connect people with where our food comes from and the impact of our choices" their website states, adding that its displays are "rooted in East Anglia and we use it to tell broad and inclusive stories".

Previously, Ms Cousins said to the East Anglian Daily Times that the change was about telling stories people could resonate with.

A museum spokesperson said earlier this year: "The change is motivated by a commitment to interpret our collection in a way which is relevant to modern audiences.

"We think that it is important that we reflect the population, issues and needs of 21st century Britain. Museums shouldn’t be preserved in aspic".

The petition founder retaliated at the decision stating the a major selling point of East Anglia is its rich history, buildings and extensive countryside.

He added: "We've also been told that visitors find it confusing, but with more than eight million tourist visits to East Anglia in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, clearly people find the region attractive".

The newly named Food Museum has described East Anglia as "Britain's Breadbasket", but Mr Attwood feels that this does not encapsulate the entirity of local culture, with many display items not having any relation to food.

The museum said it took the necessary steps to ensure the rebranding was appropriate prior to the change. In February, a museum spokesperson said that the renaming project began in 2018, with a consultation of staff, volunteers and trustees, before the distribution of a public survey.