By Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Managing Editor and Taylor Corley, Campus Carrier Editor in Chief
Updated: 12:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Madeline Odent, daughter of Berry President Steve Briggs, released a series of tweets detailing how bronze statues can be damaged beyond repair using basic household chemicals. Through her knowledge of artifact maintenance, developed from her experience as the curator of the Royston Museum in Hertfordshire, England, Odent provided specific instructions regarding how to deface statues.
According to the United Kingdom newspaper, The Sun, Odent mentioned that protestors could use household chemicals in their ongoing attempts to get rid of various public statues. In one tweet, she mentioned that utilizing the chemicals would create longer lasting destruction less likely to be fixed by art historians than measures currently being used, such as paint.
“From an art conservation perspective, it’s honestly fine to throw paint on memorials of genocidal racists!” Odent’s tweet said. “Paint is pretty easy to clean off. What would be an absolute SHAME is if people were to throw certain common HOUSEHOLD ITEMS that can cause IRREVERSIBLE BRONZE DISEASE.”
Odent has since deleted her Twitter profile and tweets.
According to the Hertfordshire Mercury, a local British news outlet, the Hertfordshire police are currently investigating Odent’s tweets.
The Royston Town Council issued a statement on Thursday that condemned damaging statues and all criminal acts.
Across the United States, protestors and city councils have begun to take down statues that memorialize the Confederacy or other holdovers from the days of slavery. The gesture is a stand against racial inequality that has divided communities for generations. For many, the statues are a reminder of past and present racism rather than a symbol of history. As protesters continue to march in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic death of George Floyd, the call to deface and remove statues is the latest form of demonstration worldwide.
The UK is just one of the more than fifty countries in which the focus for protests has become directed towards the removal of statues of racists, colonizers, and slave traders across the country. According to the BBC, on Sunday, statue related demonstrations culminated as protestors dumped a sculpture of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol harbor. Statues of countless others have been damaged and painted as well, notably that of Winston Churchill in downtown London.
In Rome, protestors have petitioned for the removal of a statue of Confederate army general and Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest currently sitting at the base of the Myrtle Hill Cemetery. As explained by the Rome News Tribune, a Change.org petition receiving 3,000 signatures led to a special meeting of the Rome Community Development Committee on Friday, where the statue and its removal will be discussed.
Professionals in the UK arts community are supporting Odent in a Friday report published by The Art Newspaper.
Odent’s tweets come exactly one week after her father released a statement to the Berry community in honor of George Floyd, in which he called for students, faculty, and staff to encourage racial equality on campus and in the country at large. In a statement sent to the Campus Carrier, Briggs expressed his admiration and pride for his daughter’s passion for creating a more equal world. He also mentions that while freedom of expression and communication, often engaging with emotionally charged issues like that of race on social media, can prove unhealthy and unhelpful. Below is the full statement from Briggs regarding his daughters tweets.
We are experiencing such a volatile moment, and I look at this particular incident both as an educator and a dad. I love my daughter. She is passionate about ideas and history, and outspoken on issues related to cultural justice. I am proud of her desire for change and stand beside her in the effort to create a more just society.
For many years, my strong counsel – to students, friends and family – has been to be very careful when using social media platforms, especially on matters that are volatile and emotionally charged.
Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of democracy, just as freedom of inquiry is foundational to an academic institution. With that freedom, however, comes the responsibility to speak in ways that foster a healthier community and that demonstrate respect for those with whom you disagree. Engaging in Twitter jousting and volleying is rarely helpful or insightful, a lesson I am sure Madeline has taken to heart.
My advice to Madeline is the same as I offered last week in my letter to the Berry community, counsel that is consistent with Berry’s emphasis on an education of the whole person – head, heart and hands. If we are to nurture healthy communities, we must have honest, caring and sustained conversations that lead to friendships with those who are profoundly different. These are best done in depth, and often in person. We need to build bridges on a foundation of patience, humble listening, and caring generosity of spirit. We need to listen receptively and respectfully to the wounds and anger of our neighbors if we hope for them to understand the heartaches and challenges that we bear.