The proposed Museum of Brexit has been awarded charity status by the Charity Commission, which means it can begin its fundraising to find a home.
It has been granted the status on the promise that it will present Brexit neutrally. However, the museum’s founders and trustees are prominent Brexiteers.
Lee Rotherham, a former director of special projects at Vote Leave and one of the trustees of the Museum of Brexit, said: “For pragmatic reasons the museum has had to be initially set up by people who know each other and wanted the museum to happen.
“Quite understandably when we set this in motion there was indifference, if not hostility, to the very concept of a museum by many on the Remain side, especially those still politically engaged over the issue at a time when it hadn’t been settled. But we made an early decision that the project needed to be approached in a balanced way that reflects the views and arguments on both sides of the divide – or rather, on multiple sides, as the dynamics are far more complicated than simply binary.
“Once people see that we are endeavouring to be more Thucydidean than Caesarian in our approach to history, we are confident we will get wide engagement and that in turn will be reflected in the range of material we can display.”
The museum hopes to raise £1m.
Alex Deane, one of the museum’s trustees said: “Our immediate target is to raise £400,000 to purchase a property, at which point the project can become a bricks and mortar entity. The next target is to raise a further £250,000 to set up the museum. This includes staff with the appropriate curatorial, archiving and administrative backgrounds.”
The museum’s website says that 14 criteria have been identified to help with finding an appropriate location, “the key ones, in short, are that it needs to be in an urban setting, in a part of the country where it will get local support, with decent transport connectivity”. The website implies the museum’s location is unlikely to be London, a Remain stronghold.
The website sets out the museum’s aims:
- A public-facing museum that displays items and tells the story to inform and educate people.
- A library and archive collection to ensure academics have easy access to a comprehensive catalogue of material, to facilitate research but also assist with academic balance.
- An outreach point for those seeking informed but apolitical support on matters relating to Brexit, especially within the EU itself.
The museum is open for object donations and 30 drop-off points have been set up across the country to make it easier for people to donate items. “In tandem with that, we have been approaching people over some iconic items and have had some very good pledges on the proviso that we obtain a physical site,” said Rotherham.
If the collected donations represent an uneven split between Remain and Leave, the museum trustees say they will proactively seek to balance the representation of each side. “Once we have started to centralise what the local collections have generated we can review what we have and plug obvious gaps to ensure the narrative is fair and balanced. The archives and library in particular I foresee being something that grows slowly with bequests,” said Rotherham.
The museum will not be confined to the subject of Brexit specifically, and will cover 2,000 years of the UK’s relationship with Europe. Rotherham says that there are three key parts: the referendum and its aftermath, 2016-2020; the growth of the European construct and the parallel evolution of Euroscepticism in the UK, 1950-2015; and deep history, pre-1950, including Common Law, non-tariff barriers, parliamentary sovereignty, and the free press.
Nigel Lawson, the former chancellor of the exchequer said: “The debate about the United Kingdom’s evolving relationship with its neighbours, and its place in the world, has been of critical national significance. We need to capture those records and stories for posterity.”