Sunday, 9 June 2013

Museums Are Not a Luxury, Either

I've been pretty much ignoring the news over the last week, in favour of visitors - my sister and her family came in their camper van, and my Young Man was here at the same time. One thing I did notice, though, as we scrolled through Facebook one day, was the threat to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, which may be forced to close because of cuts to the budget. Manchester, of course, is one of the heartlands of the Industrial Revolution. The cotton mills are long gone, but it is still important to remember what made Manchester so important in the past - and doubly important to show advances in science and technology to the public. This is the sort of thing that can inspire our next generation of scientists and engineers - but how will they be inspired if they are unable to find out about it? This is not some little local museum, either - it's nationally important.

The MOSI is in the same group as the London Science Museum, the National Railway Museum in York, and the National Media Museum in Bradford. Of these four, it is thought that the Media Museum in Bradford is most likely to be closed - even though it gets 500,000 visitors a year, this is less than the other museums in the group. But it is more important to Bradford than the Science Museum is to London - London has a wide variety of attractions and opportunities to find out about science. Bradford - not so much, but in this era of electronic entertainment, the history of photography, film, TV and video games is relevant to everyone's lives, and it's something that all Bradfordians seem to be proud of.

In Herefordshire, meanwhile, all the local museums are under threat of closure - though locals are fighting back against an uncaring council that sees them as unimportant. The costume collection is regularly consulted by people from places like Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia - it's been quite interesting to see letters from the US in the pages of the Hereford Times on the issue.

Meanwhile, there seems to be plenty of money to spend on a new museum in honour of Margaret Thatcher - fifteen million pounds, in fact, supported by David Cameron in the pages of the Telegraph.

Isn't science and technology more important than the divisive legacy of a politician?

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