Climate Activists Say Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Was Wrong to Close Ahead of Protest

The climate activist group Extinction Rebellion has criticized leadership at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for briefly closing its doors last week, fearing a planned demonstration that the institution said could cause potential damage.

After the museum closed early on Thursday, its director, Peggy Fogelman, claimed that the demonstration would potentially inflict harm to the interior of its Dutch Room. That gallery is now host to several empty frames from which works of art were famously stolen during the ’90s.

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Extinction Rebellion, which promoted the protest on social media and on its website before it was called off, had sought to bring attention to the loss of biodiversity in the surrounding region.

In the statement published on Friday, Extinction Rebellion pushed back on the museum’s reasoning for the closure, saying the planned demonstration was not intended to be destructive. The group said it had published materials around the event for weeks prior on its website and that its agenda to hold a “peaceful regenerative field trip” was well documented.

The group said that the museum’s leadership has on two occasions misinterpreted the purpose of the demonstrations. Extinction Rebellion had previously planned to hold a climate-related protest at the museum in mid-March. The action was canceled when its administrators closed the museum early to thwart the event. They claimed that Fogelman “seems confused” about their goals.

Moreover, the protest was meant “as a conversation-starter,” the group said.

Representatives for Extinction Rebellion and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum did not respond to requests for comment.


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