Controversial museum tours call Captain Cook an 'invader', but others insist this is unfair

A poster promoting the tours from theexhibitionist.org.
A poster promoting the tours from theexhibitionist.org.

Controversial “uncomfortable” museum tours about Britain's imperial past brand Captain Cook as an “invader", but others insist this is unfair.

The sell-out tours of some of the biggest museums in the country are hosted by Art historian Alice Procter and call on museums to “display it like you stole it” - in a bid for a rethink of the politics of display in their galleries.


They claim “the history of British art is also the history of empire and genocide” and brand Captain Cook an “invader” and Lord Nelson a “white supremacist.”


But Charles Forgan from Whitby’s Captain Cook Museum insists the ‘invader’ tag is an unfair one for Cook.


He said: “Full marks to Miss Procter for initiative! We should always acknowledge the subsequent effects of British migration on native populations.


“However it is inappropriate to apply the term ‘invader’ to Captain Cook, because it evokes the hostility, violence and conquest of William the Conqueror, Napoleon, Hitler and many others."

He added: “Cook’s voyages were voyages of scientific investigation - to observe the transit of Venus and to find the Great Southern Continent. His orders were to do this peacefully and make friends where he could.”


The museums have said that they do not endorse the tours, while MP and historian Kwasi Kwarteng has labelled them “sensationalist, babyish and silly.” Miss Procter wrote in The Guardian this week: “My tours, and projects like them, will continue until museums engage fully with their imperial legacies without needing to be prompted. I don’t know when that will happen, but it must.”