By Ian Blatchford, Director, Science Museum.
I have recently received feedback from a campaign group about the welcome reception for this year’s Farnborough International Airshow taking place at the Science Museum. Given the strong views some people have about this booking, I wanted to provide some context about the museum’s commercial activities.
As Director, I have a responsibility to balance financial sustainability with achieving our goal to be the leading international museum championing the understanding, enjoyment and prestige of science. The financial challenge faced by our museums has grown in recent years when the tough economic climate has seen our Government funding reduced by more than 30 per cent in real terms since 2010.
Our response to this fiscal challenge has involved a combination of reducing our running costs and increasing the income we generate. Alongside philanthropic support from individuals and companies we continue to expand the range and scope of our commercial activities, including offering spaces for hire for corporate events outside the hours when the museum is open to the public.
Among the many corporate events taking place at the museum this year is the welcome reception for Farnborough International Airshow. The show is a key event for the UK aerospace industry, a subject area in which the Science Museum holds major collections and an industry which is a prominent investor in science and engineering. We treated this event as we would a booking from any other legitimate organisation.
The revenue generated by bookings such as this plays an important role in the funding mix that enables us to remain free to millions of visitors, run the biggest educational programme of its kind, and allows us to curate world-class exhibitions.
I respect people’s right to hold different views but I believe we are making the right decisions to secure the long-term future of the museum for the public good.