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Science Museum Director Sir Ian Blatchford was met by protestors as he attended the Museums Association annual conference.

Protesters from XR North East holding placards that say 'Science Museum funded by fossil fuels'
The protesters from XR North East wore masks of Blatchford’s face and held banners condemning fossil fuel sponsorship of the Science Museum

XR Tyneside

Climate protesters targeted Sir Ian Blatchford, the Director of the Science Museum, as he attended the Museums Association annual conference in Gateshead this week.

The demonstration outside the event at the Glasshouse was led by members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) North East, who wore masks of Blatchford’s face and held banners condemning fossil fuel sponsorship of the Science Museum.

Blachford, who has led the publicly funded flagship science centre since 2010, was arriving to speak on a panel alongside Arts Minister Lord Parkinson and Baroness Lola Young, a former Head of Culture at the Greater London Authority.


The Science Museum is the only UK cultural institution to maintain a sponsorship deal with BP after several organisations severed ties with the oil and gas giant in recent years.

The British Museum, The Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Scottish Ballet and Royal Opera House have all ended their relationships with the firm, which currently funds the Science Museum’s educational academy.

Alongside BP, the Science Museum also receives ongoing support from Shell, Norwegian oil and gas company Equinor and Adani Green Energy, a sub-company of Indian multinational conglomerate Adani, which is sponsoring the museum’s new gallery space.

The organisation's continued association with fossil fuel corporations has previously led to the resignation of the Science Museum’s former Director and two trustees, as well as a boycott from scientists.

Collective sector action

Earlier this week, museums across the country committed to collective action to decarbonise the sector and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis at the UK’s first-ever Museum COP held at Tate Modern.

In a collective statement, museum leaders acknowledged a “responsibility to speak out about the climate and biodiversity crisis” as “institutions with a long-term view.”

Representatives from the Science Museum Group attended the event.

Isobel Tarr, co-Director at the campaigns and research organisation Culture Unstained, said: “Museums are playing a leading role in climate action, but the Science Museum is lagging far behind the rest. 

"Director Ian Blatchford is the driving force behind the museum’s decision to keep taking fossil fuel money at a time when the sector at large is rejecting it. 

"Oil giants such as Equinor…use cultural and educational institutions to present themselves as beneficial to the public and essential for the future. Most other leaders in the museum sector are waking up to this, including the British Museum, who this year dropped BP as their sponsor after 22 years.”

Public good

A spokesperson for the Science Museum Group said: "The Science Museum Group achieves public good for a wide and diverse audience of many millions with the sponsorship it receives.  

"External funding has been vital to the transformation of our five museums, creating inspiring, free spaces where millions of visitors can immerse themselves in authentic stories about science, engineering, mathematics and more. 
"Engaging people with humanity’s greatest challenge – the fight against devastating climate change – is a major priority for our museums, alongside reducing the impact of our own activity as we work towards achieving net zero by 2033.

"We continue to urge companies in carbon-intensive sectors to show more leadership in speeding up the transition to low-carbon energy sources and last year extended our use of the respected Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) to assess the commitment of prospective and current partners to curbing climate change."

A headshot of Mary Stone