Our campaign so far…
In April 2022, the Science Museum was forced to cancel an event at the last minute after two scientists pulled out in protest at its ongoing fossil fuel sponsorship deals. This was just the latest example of people choosing not to work with the museum until it shifts its policies, including Brazilian digital artist João Queiroz who withdrew work from an upcoming exhibition in February, violinist and composer Anna Phoebe and Space Rocks who pulled out of a ‘Late’ event in November, and global plastic pollution researchers Steve and Dee Allen who have declined to have their work included in the Museum’s permanent collection.
In January 2022 we joined a large group of organisations to bring powerful Indigenous voices to the door of the Science Museum, calling on it to listen to them and Drop Adani. On the same day we revealed museum Chair Dame Mary Archer’s response to the letter Indigenous people had sent her in December, demonstrating her patronising refusal to engage with the concerns of those living with the reality of Adani’s destructive coal mining.
On 16th December 2021, a large group of scientists and former contributors responded to the Science Museum Group’s defence of its fossil fuel sponsorship deals and accusations that its critics have been making ‘false attacks’. They debunked the museum’s arguments and called for genuine engagement in a letter to chair Dame Mary Archer. On the same day, one of the UK’s leading scientists Sir David King called for the institution to end any deals with big oil corporations unless the companies make a ‘commitment to no further investment in oil discovery and…infrastructure.‘
On 1st December 2021, representatives of Indigenous communities impacted by Adani’s coal operations in India, Indonesia and Australia called on the Science Museum Group to listen to their concerns and drop its sponsorship deal. The signatories wrote to the museum after comments by the museum’s director on the BBC brushing off Indigenous peoples’ concerns and experiences of Adani’s impacts. Read their letter here, and see the Guardian’s coverage here.
On 19th November 2021 we published a letter signed by 60 leading scientists and contributors to the Science Museum Group, announcing they will not work with the organisation until it commits to ending its partnerships with fossil fuel companies. Then Channel 4 News revealed that the museum had signed another ‘gagging clause’, this time with Adani, to avoid ‘discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation of the sponsor.’ The documents also revealed the museum had co-ordinated with Adani to counter criticisms of its controversial mining operation in Australia.
On 30th October 2021 a statement by the Chair of the Science Museum Group confirmed that mathematician and presenter Hannah Fry, and Director of the Institute for Research in Schools Jo Foster, had both resigned from the museum’s Board of Trustees over its stance on fossil fuel sponsorship. That same weekend, the museum barred two young climate activists from entering the building. Full story here.
In October 2021 the Science Museum announced an even more controversial new fossil fuel sponsor – coal and renewables giant Adani. This came shortly after Prof Chris Rapley, himself a former director of the museum, resigned from its Advisory Board over its fossil fuel partnerships. We responded by highlighting the opposition of the Indigenous Traditional Owners of the land where Adani is building a giant coal mine in Australia, and launching a new Adani briefing. We appeared on BBC Front Row to challenge Director Ian Blatchford’s defence of the new deal.
In September 2021 we supported young people from UKSCN London to write to the Science Museum formally requesting that one of the youth strike placards it had on display be removed as its creator had not been informed the exhibition was going to be sponsored by Shell. The museum responded by immediately removing the placard and subsequently removing the other youth strike placards from the exhibition.
In July 2021 Channel 4 News covered our latest investigation: that the Science Museum Group has signed a “gagging clause” with its sponsor Shell, committing not to “damage the goodwill or reputation” of the oil giant. We also caught the museum red-handed trying to persuade 12 more of the world’s biggest oil firms to sponsor the exhibition, as well as many other disturbing insights into what’s going on behind the scenes at the Science Museum. Read the full investigation here.
The Science Museum announced in April 2021 that its ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition would be sponsored by Shell. We helped mobilise a huge outcry, including: leading scientists calling it ‘staggering and irresponsible‘; youth climate strikers publishing an open letter calling on the museum to drop Shell, endorsed by over 200 scientists and organisations – then launching a boycott of the exhibition; some contributors to the exhibition going public about how unhappy they were; revealing the museum director’s internal memo to staff defending Shell and attacking critics.
Comedian and broadcaster Robin Ince became the third speaker to pull out of the Science Museum’s ‘Climate Talks’ over its partnerships with oil giants BP and Equinor, explaining his reasoning in a highly personal blog.
In February 2021 we revealed how the Science Museum Group has been helping BP behind the scenes to defend its sponsorship deals, and environmentalist George Monbiot pulled out of the museum’s Climate Talks series over its ongoing partnerships with BP and Equinor.
We revealed in The Guardian in 2018 how partners of the Manchester Science Festival pulled out when they discovered that oil giant Shell would sponsor the headline exhibition taking place at the city’s Science and Industry Museum.
In 2018 we supported 46 scientists who backed a formal complaint to the Science Museum Group, making the case that its partnerships with BP, Shell and Equinor breach the organisation’s own values and Ethics Policy.
Through Freedom of Information requests and background research, we’ve exposed how oil sponsors have used partnerships with the Science Museum to further their business plans. Find out more here.
Prior to founding Culture Unstained, we revealed on the front page of The Guardian how Shell had attempted to influence the Science Museum’s climate exhibition, ‘Atmosphere’.
The Science Museum Group’s partnerships with three major oil and gas firms
Despite the mounting climate crisis, the Science Museum Group has worked in close partnership with three oil and gas giants – BP, Shell and Equinor – since the early 2000s.
- Equinor – the Norwegian oil and gas giant currently drilling in the Arctic – is the title sponsor of ‘Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery’, an interactive science space for children which opened in 2016.
- Shell was sponsor of the Science Museum’s ‘Atmosphere’ exhibition on climate science but internal emails revealed in 2015 how the oil giant attempted to influence the exhibition’s curation. The partnership did not end, however, and in 2018, Shell sponsored the exhibition ‘Electricity: the spark of life’ at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. In April 2021 it was announced as the sponsor of the Science Museum’s ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition on Carbon Capture and Storage.
- BP worked hand in hand with the Science Museum on the creation of its Energy Gallery in 2003. Today, BP sponsors the SMG’s STEM ‘Training Academy’ to train teachers on how to deliver science education, and until recently hosted the annual awards ceremony of its ‘Ultimate STEM Challenge’ in the museum.