Science Museum defends relationship with Shell - Museums Association

Science Museum defends relationship with Shell

Emails reveal oil giant tried to influence climate change programme
Gary Noakes
London’s Science Museum has insisted it made no changes to a Shell-sponsored exhibition about climate change, despite comments made by the oil giant on the programme.

Discussions about the museum’s Atmosphere, Exploring Climate Science permanent exhibition and the extended Climate Changing programme, were revealed by a Freedom of Information request from pressure group BP or not BP?, which campaigns against sponsorship of the arts by oil companies.

The emails reveal Shell’s concerns that the Rubbish Collection exhibition by the artist Joshua Sofaer, which documented waste generated by the museum over 30 days, “creates an opportunity for NGOs to talk about some of the issues that concern them around Shell’s operations”.

The oil giant also asked whether a seminar was invitation-only in order to avoid a discussion of the way it did business.

However, the museum said that curatorial staff had complete control during the four-year partnership, but that it was normal for a sponsor to make suggestions.

Museum director Ian Blatchford was unavailable for comment, but in a blog response he said: “Having spoken to our curatorial team, I can confirm that not a single change to the curatorial programme resulted from these email exchanges.”

Blatchford said he “fundamentally” disagreed with critics of the museum’s partnership with corporations like Shell, not just because of the funds they provide.

“More importantly it’s because when it comes to the major challenges facing our society, from climate change to inspiring the next generation of engineers, we need to be engaging with all the key players including governments, industry and the public, not hiding away in a comfortable ivory tower,” he said.

The Atmosphere gallery has been visited by more than three million people and the museum’s relationship with oil companies is set to continue, with BP sponsoring the forthcoming Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age, which opens on 18 September.


Read the emails between the Science Museum and Shell (external website)

Blog: how close is too close when it comes to sponsorship?

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