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Why is the Science Museum still being contaminated by Shell’s dirty money asks George Monbiot

Taking money from fossil fuel companies today is like taking money from tobacco firms in the 1990s. The damage public institutions inflict on themselves by receiving this sponsorship exceeds any benefits. Just as their hands were once stained with nicotine, now they are stained with oil. The tobacco experience suggests that it can take many years to expunge these damn’d spots and restore their reputations.

This is the position in which the Science Museum now finds itself. It appears to have learned nothing from the reputational harm it caused itself by accepting money from the oil companies BP and Equinor. Last week it revealed that Shell was funding – wait for it – its new exhibition on climate breakdown.

Although many other great institutions – such as the National Galleries in London and Scotland, the Tate Galleries, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Southbank Centre, the American Museum of Natural History and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – have cut their ties with fossil fuel industries, the Science Museum seems determined to tar and feather itself. Its director, Sir Ian Blatchford, told journalists: “Even if the Science Museum were lavishly publicly funded I would still want to have sponsorship from the oil companies.” Something tells me this will not age well.


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