Science Museum’s green energy gallery opens amid protests over sponsorship - Museums Association

Science Museum’s green energy gallery opens amid protests over sponsorship

SMG says new permanent gallery will 'spark important conversations' as it defends Adani Green Energy deal
A demonstration by climate protesters took place at the Science Museum on Saturday 23 March
A demonstration by climate protesters took place at the Science Museum on Saturday 23 March Ron Fassbender

A protest took place at the Science Museum in London over the weekend in advance of this week’s opening of Energy Revolution: the Adani Green Energy Gallery, which explores the technology that will support the world’s transition to low carbon.

The new permanent gallery has been controversial due to its sponsorship by the Indian company Adani Green Energy. The firm is one of six separate companies that make up the Adani Group; other companies in the group have significant interests in coal and arms production.

The announcement of the sponsorship deal in 2021 led to the resignation of two trustees, as well as advisor and former Science Museum director, Chris Rapley.

On Saturday, more than 150 protesters entered the Science Museum and hung a 12-metre banner across several balconies in the museum’s Energy Hall. A protest band played music while campaigners chanted “Adani out”.

The protesters highlighted the stories of communities who say they have been impacted by the activities of the Adani Group in India, where Adani companies have been accused of orchestrating land grabs and deforestation.

One of the campaign groups at the protest, XR Families, said: “We're here to hold the museum accountable and demand that they prioritise a liveable future over corporate interests, for the sake of the living world, and of children across the world.”


The Science Museum Group (SMG) has consistently defended its relationships with the energy industry, which includes sponsorship arrangements with Adani Green Energy and the oil company Equinor.

It says sponsorship is a crucial source of income for its museums, and such firms will play an essential role in the transition to green energy.

SMG chief executive Ian Blatchford said Adani Green Energy is making a “big contribution” to decarbonising the global economy.

In a statement following the protests, Blatchford said: “Engaging our audiences with the science of climate change – the defining challenge of our time – is a key priority for the Science Museum Group. 

"Our innovative new gallery will explore how we might achieve the urgent energy transition the world needs to see, a project made possible by generous sponsorship from Adani Green Energy, a major renewable energy business based in India whose huge population is expected to drive the biggest energy demand growth of any country in the world in the coming decades. 

“The new gallery is a free resource for millions of visitors that will spark important conversations about the global challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, not least how we achieve the massive growth in renewable energy required for a low carbon future.


“We recognise that some campaigners have strong views about sponsorship and wish to see wholesale disengagement from entire sectors. Our trustees disagree with that view and have clearly articulated our approach, both in terms of robust governance and in urging companies, governments and individuals to do more to make the global economy less carbon intensive – something Adani Green Energy is making a big contribution to.”

Campaigners have previously accused the SMG of burying an internal due diligence report highlighting concerns about the impact of the Adani Group’s coalmining activities on the environment and Indigenous communities, as well as allegations of corruption, human rights abuses and poor conditions for workers.

The anti-oil campaign group Culture Unstained lodged a formal ethics complaint to the SMG board of trustees last year about the process leading up to the Adani Green Energy deal.

A spokesperson for the Fossil Free Science Museum coalition told Museums Journal that the SMG’s stance was “indefensible” and said it was misleading to claim that Adani Green Energy is a standalone renewables company when the museum's “own due diligence research [had found] that it is an integral part of the Adani Group”.

The SMG has strenuously defended its arrangement with Adani Green Energy. In a statement last year, it said: “No partnership was ever proposed for a corporate sponsorship specifically with the ‘Adani Group’.”

It added: “Following the first exploratory conversation with Mr Adani, and in line with our robust approach to due diligence, we carried out initial checks on the six companies that make up the Adani Group before proceeding with conversations, which ultimately culminated in a partnership with Adani Green Energy.”

The Energy Revolution gallery
Visitors looking at the centrepiece sculpture, Only Breath, in the new Energy Revolution gallery © Science Museum Group

Describing the coming 10 years as a “crucial decade of action”, the Energy Revolution gallery explores the science and technology that will drive the world’s rapid transition to green energy and decarbonisation, from nuclear fusion to renewables such as tidal and wind energy.

The free gallery is divided into three zones:

  • Future Planet, which looks at complex computer-based models and how the climate might be in the future
  • Future Energy, which examines how energy is supplied and the attempts to reimagine it
  • Our Future, which includes creative ideas from children about how the world will meet its energy needs.

Objects on display include a quadrant from the Zero Energy Thermonuclear Assembly (Zeta), a nuclear fusion experiment created in the late 1950s, which has never been shown to visitors before, a five-metre tall parabolic solar trough mirror, and London’s first electric taxi cab, dating from 1897.

The centrepiece of the gallery is Only Breath, a kinetic sculpture by Torus Torus Studios, which is suspended over visitors and breathes in and out, stretching to around five metres wide when unfurled. The work is intended to signify “the power of nature to inspire technological change”.

The gallery design is informed by sustainable principles, with objects displayed on galvanised steel shelves that have been repurposed from the Science Museum’s former storage facility at Blythe House.

The gallery highlights the “urgency of change”, said lead curator Oliver Carpenter – but also the power of the "human imagination".

“We’re at a very important moment in world history,” he said. “It only takes one moment of inspiration to kickstart the revolution.”

The gallery was designed by Unknown Works, an architecture and creative studio known for its sustainable innovation, which has not previously worked in the museum sector. The studio also designed the solar powered classrooms that feature in the exhibition. The gallery fit-out was carried out by Beck.

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