A statue of the slave trader Edward Colston that was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest is to go on public display.

The bronze memorial to the 17th-century merchant had stood in the city since 1895, but was pulled from its plinth during the demonstration on 7 June last year.

It was dragged through the city to the harbourside, where it was thrown in the water at Pero’s Bridge, which is named in honour of Pero Jones, an enslaved man who lived and died in the city.

Sculpture of Black Lives Matter protester replaces Edward Colston statue – video
Sculpture of Black Lives Matter protester replaces Edward Colston statue – video

Days later, the statue was recovered from the water by Bristol city council and put into storage before months of work to clean and preserve the state it was in.

On Friday, almost exactly a year since it was toppled, the bronze will go on public display at the M Shed Museum in the city, alongside placards from the protest and a timeline of events.

The statue, featuring graffiti and damage from when it was pulled down, is unable to stand upright and so is displayed lying on a wooden stand.

Members of the public are being asked by the We Are Bristol History commission, which was set up after the protest, what should happen to it next.

Options include removing the statue from public view entirely, creating a museum or exhibition about the transatlantic slave trade, or restoring the statue to its plinth.

Dr Shawn Sobers, an associate professor at the University of the West of England and part of the commission, said the effects of the statue being pulled down “ricocheted” across the UK and the world.

“We know this isn’t an isolated incident, we know that there are statues across the world that celebrate slavers,” Sobers said. “At the same time, the anti-racist movement isn’t about statues. It’s trying to eradicate racism from society and bring equality where there’s racial disparity which cuts across economic divides.

“But statues are a symbol of how seriously our cities in Britain are actually taking these issues.”

Sobers described putting the Colston statue on display as an opportunity to tell a wider history and encourage people to speak about it. “It’s been toppled, it’s been laid on its back in a warehouse for a year and we want it to be a very transparent display to say this is how it is, this is what we’re working with, and we want to ask what happens next.”

The display at M Shed forms the first part of the public consultation, with a survey also launched for people to provide their views on the future of the statue and of how Bristol’s history is told.

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