Fight at the Nightingale

Simon Stephens, 22.05.2012
Controversy over statue at Clore Award shortlisted museum
Natasha McEnroe was on tenterhooks when I visited her at the Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas’ Hospital recently. She was waiting to see if her museum had made it onto the shortlist for the Clore Award for Museum Learning.

She was put of her misery last week, and it was good news: the Florence Nightingale Museum joined Camden Arts Centre in London, Leicestershire County Council Heritage and Arts Service, Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, and Yorkshire Museum in York; on the five-strong shortlist.

The other big news at the Florence Nightingale Museum at the moment is the campaign to create a three-metre high bronze statue of Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Opposition to the plan has already made the pages of the Daily Mail, with critics concerned that the statue might detract from the links Nightingale has with the hospital.

Supporters of the plan argue that Seacole and Nightingale could be complementary not contradictory.

Despite bearing Nightingale's name, the museum has chosen to take a neutral stance. Its displays are obviously focused on Nightingale, but it also has small area about Seacole.

Instead of taking sides, it has held a series of events where the issue has been debated, the most recent being a talk by the academic Lynn McDonald, who opposes the plan. The debates are part of the museum’s wider aim to become a place where contemporary issues surrounding nursing can be debated.

The Seacole statue was recently given planning permission by Lambeth Council, but the museum is also very interested in another planning application – one that will allow it to improve its exterior signage.

This, and its fortunes in the Clore Award for Museum Learning, will probably have a bigger impact on the museum than the outcome of the Seacole statue plan.


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23.05.2012, 20:56
This new story in the Daily Mail has probably achieved more publicity for the Florence Nightingale Museum than anyone else has managed to achieve so far!!