London Science Museum signed gagging order with Shell over climate change exhibition

Campaigners accuse museum of allowing Shell to 'greenwash' their image with exhibition on carbon capture.

London Science Museum signed gagging order with Shell over climate change exhibition

The London Science Museum agreed not to publicly criticize Shell as part of a sponsorship deal for an exhibition about carbon capture. 

In a contract released to campaign group Culture Unstained under freedom of information laws, the museum said it would not “make any statement or issue any publicity or otherwise be involved in any conduct or matter that may reasonably be foreseen as discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation of the Sponsor.”

The exhibition, called Our Future Planet, explores different natural and technological solutions for drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. These include technologies that Shell either has commercial interest in, researches or actually operates.

Oil and gas industry support for British cultural institutions has been subject to a long-running campaign by environmentalists. Culture Unstained accused the Science Museum of allowing Shell to “greenwash” its public image.

Culture Unstained also obtained email exchanges between museum director Ian Blatchford as he sought Shell’s help in securing support from the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative — a group of a dozen of the largest fossil fuel corporations. The Science Museum eventually walked away from the deal, the documents said, because one of the companies did not meet its environmental criteria. 

A Science Museum spokesperson told U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 News, which first reported the contract, that “energy companies need to play a big part” in the “transition to a low carbon economy” and that “we regard the blanket approach demanded by some campaigners of severing all relationships with energy companies as unproductive.”

A spokesperson for 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.”