The Science Museum is under fire today for signing a “gagging order” preventing it from criticising Shell, the sponsor of its current “Our Future Planet” exhibition.
Documents obtained by FOI request by climate group Culture Unstained show that the museum signed a sponsorship agreeing in which it agreed not to do or say anything which “may reasonably be foreseen as damaging the goodwill or reputation” of the sponsor.
The documents, which were first reported by the Times, show that the museum was also in talks with a consortium of 12 other oil and gas firms over sponsoring the show.
The exhibition, which started on 19 May, is showcasing technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS), which are widely seen as crucial to preventing dangerous levels of climate change.
A spokesperson for the activist group said that the decision to sign such a clause “put its staff in a very difficult position and… should be of great concern to the museum sector as a whole”.
In response, the museum said that the clause was standard and appears in most such sponsorship agreements.
It added: “At all times the Science Museum retains editorial control of the content within our exhibitions and galleries. We entirely reject the unsubstantiated claim that our curators were in any way inhibited in carrying out their vital role in an expert, independent and thorough manner”.
Shell said: “We fully respect the museum’s independence. That’s why its exhibition on carbon capture matters and why we supported it. Debate and discussion — among anyone who sees it — are essential.”