Norwegian Oil Giant Statoil is Sponsoring a New UK Science Museum Gallery for Kids

Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery at the Science Museum

The Science Museum will be launching a new ‘Wonderlab’ gallery in October sponsored by Norwegian oil giant Statoil.

The interactive gallery is targeted towards children between the ages of seven and 14 and aims to “inspire visitors… to wonder at the science and mathematics that shape the world around us.”

Campaigners, however, question whether Statoil is an appropriate sponsor for such an exhibit – this isn’t the first time the Science Museum has had an exhibit sponsored by an oil company.

Anna Galkina of the art and environment group Platform said: “Big Oil's business model – whether Shell, BP, or Statoil's – is incompatible with ensuring a safe climate for our children to live in.

Branding a gallery aimed at educating schoolkids about science with a Statoil logo is really the worst kind of hypocrisy.”

This was echoed by Ragnhild Freng Dale from the Norwegian campaign group ‘End Oil Sponsorship of the Arts Norway’, who argued that by targeting young audiences, it will serve to “normalise [Statoil’s] presence in our cultural institutions, whilst their business plans directly threaten a safe climate for future generations to grow up in.”

Controversial Arts Sponsors

The news follows recent criticisms of fossil fuel arts sponsorships in Britain, as documents released under freedom of information requests to campaign group Art Not Oil last month showed BP gained privileged access to key political decision makers through its various museum sponsorships.

The Science Museum has invested £6 million into the Wonderlab gallery, which will have hands-on exhibits focusing on topics such as sound, light, and the solar system. It is also sponsored in part by nuclear fuel company Urenco.

Announcing the new gallery, John Knight, Statoil’s UK country manager, said in a press release: “Our industry depends on advances in science, technology engineering and maths.

Investing in science is key for us to be able to provide the world with the energy it needs while limiting greenhouse gas emissions and thus preventing dangerous climate change.

Through our support of the Science Museum, we will help improve the public’s understanding of science and inspire and energise young people in the UK and beyond.”

The Science Museum failed to respond to DeSmog UK's request for comment in time for publication.

Big Oil Influence

This isn’t the first time that the Science Museum has had a gallery sponsored by Big Oil.

Last year, BP sponsored the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibit. Emails released to Art Not Oil in May, however, showed that this sponsorship allowed BP to collaborate with the museum on an ‘advocacy plan’ for last year’s general election.

And between 2010 and 2015, Shell sponsored the museum’s Atmosphere Gallery which explored climate science. However, in May 2015 it was revealed through emails that Shell tried to influence the way the climate change exhibit was presented.

Commenting on the Statoil exhibit, Chris Garrard of Art Not Oil said: “The Science Museum says that with this new ‘Statoil’ gallery it is on a mission to reignite wonder – and it has.

Most people will be wondering how, just weeks after the Paris Climate agreement was signed, the museum thought a fossil fuel company would be an appropriate sponsor for a new gallery aimed at 7-14 year olds?”

Our research has already exposed BP's influence over the museum's Energy gallery and Shell's interference in its climate science exhibit,” Garrard continued, “how can visitors have trust that Statoil won't be trying to shape the science here?” 

Photo: Science Museum Twitter

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