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Museum to benefit from £7.5 million investment plans over 5 years

The Science Museum Group today re-affirmed its commitment to ambitious plans for the National Media Museum and announced that internationally significant objects will be brought to Bradford’s leading cultural attraction.

The Board of the Science Museum Group (SMG) last night approved the transfer of world-changing collection items from the Science Museum to the National Media Museum (NMeM). These include unique and culturally important objects relating to the work of pioneers such as Sir William Herschel, Sir Charles Wheatstone, Guglielmo Marconi and Sir John Fleming.

The Board discussion was held in response to concerns raised by people in and around Bradford, the region’s MPs and councillors following January’s announcement of NMeM’s intention to transfer its art of photography collections to the V&A—part of ambitious plans to change the museum’s focus to the science and technology of light and sound, while retaining other collections, notably the Daily Herald archive of more than three million images.

At last night’s meeting, Trustees confirmed that the transfer of 270,000 images, 26,000 books and periodicals, 10,000 items of archival materials and 6,000 pieces of camera equipment in the Royal Photographic Society Collection will go ahead but that the transfer of another 85,000 objects will be reviewed and that the NMeM should retain some key items (on long-term or permanent loan from the V&A) from the RPS Collection that support its new vision.

SMG Chairman Dame Mary Archer said:

“My fellow Trustees and I were struck by the depth of feeling that has been expressed about the future of the National Media Museum. We want to assure the people of Bradford that the aim of the Science Museum Group, like that of the Council, is to improve the museum, put it on a sound footing, and to shift its emphasis towards inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers, while still celebrating the city’s key role in film, photography and television.”

In advance of the meeting, a series of discussions were held between City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, NMeM Director Jo Quinton-Tulloch and SMG Director Ian Blatchford to re-affirm the commitment to plans that will see £7.5 million of investment to the NMeM over the next 5 years. This investment will support a mission to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers by giving an unrivalled insight into the science, technology and culture of light and sound.

The Trustees’ strong commitment to the future of Bradford’s premier visitor attraction has also been welcomed by the council, which has invested £1m in the museum’s education programme for Bradford schools between 2014/17.

Councillor David Green, Leader of Bradford Council, said:

“We have worked closely with the National Media Museum over the development of new galleries and have given financial support of a million pounds over three years to improve visitor numbers and experience.

“The National Media Museum is really important to our city both culturally and economically and we will continue to support its development, working with partner organisations and citizens.

“It’s great news the national Science Museum Group has confirmed ongoing commitment to the National Media Museum and to Bradford, and is planning to raise £7.5 million of investment over the next 5 years. Also that there will be a transfer of unique and important exhibits from the Science Museum in London to Bradford and discussions about retaining key items from the Royal Photographic Society collection in Bradford.

“I look forward to the opening of the new £1.5 million interactive gallery next year and the development of a £5m ‘Treasures’ Gallery.”

At last night’s meeting, Trustees discussed two petitions and a proposal by local MP Naz Shah, that SMG should retain and digitize the RPS Collection itself. However, Trustees decided that, given the strong commitment given by the V&A to digitising the transferred objects so they reach a global audience, it would be better to focus SMG resources on the NMeM’s ambitious future plans.

V&A Director Martin Roth said:

“We are fully committed to increasing access both to the physical objects and the digitisation of the collection. We also believe that the National Media Museum’s future plans are exciting and will actively support programming there in future.”

The change in focus in Bradford under Jo Quinton-Tulloch is already beginning to have an impact. She said:

“Our 11 per cent growth in visitor numbers compared to last year is the strongest performance across our museum group this year and our science-focused half term activities were the most popular for several years. I’m confident that our plans will enable the National Media Museum to continue to grow its visitors and confirm its position is a key cultural institution—the ‘jewel in the crown’ for Bradford.”

SMG Trustees have also confirmed the intention to rename the museum in 2017, with a title that reflects its new focus and its status as a nationally important museum.



Additional quotes 

The new direction for the museum, which was the subject of a major consultation, also has the strong backing of Bradford College Group, whose Chief Executive Officer, Andy Welsh, said:

“We have always enjoyed a positive working relationship with the museum and look forward to that continuing. We are well aware of the pressures on funding that the National Media Museum has to manage and believe that the new direction being taken, to focus more on a scientific agenda, could have real benefits for the students at Bradford College and to employers in the area. Bradford College is well aware of the importance of STEM and STEAM education—they are skills sought by employers and we have pledged to develop more courses in these areas. We are keen for our learners to engage with the museum’s fixed and temporary exhibitions.”

Naz Shah MP, said:

“While I am supportive of the wider direction of travel in so far as the investment and development of the museum, I am disappointed that the Trustees felt unable to retain and digitise the RPS collection. I'm not convinced the board understood the passionate concern of local people. I agree that keeping key objects from the RPS on display in the museum and bringing more significant objects from the Science Museum Group’s collection to Bradford will ensure that our city’s cultural life is not downgraded. I will be having further discussions to ensure that Bradford's voice remains at the heart of all future discussions and actions.”

Proposed transfer objects from Science Museum to National Media Museum include:

Herschel's infra red apparatus, c 1840
Prismatic apparatus for photographic researches on the solar spectrum. It consists of two glass prisms in mount, a large objective glass lens and long, hooped framework covered with velvet for darkness and vertical bracket for paper scale. It was used by William Herschel in the first investigations of the solar spectrum beyond the visible region, when he discovered infrared radiation.

Exponential Horn, 2014
At 27 feet, the reconstructed Denman Horn is the size of a Routemaster bus and is a benchmark in the historic quest for audio perfection, with the original horn commissioned in 1929 by then Science Museum Curator of Communications Roderick Denman.

Marconi-Fleming valve radio receiver, c 1908
As well as being a pioneer in the application of electricity to lighting and heating on a large scale, John Ambrose Fleming (1849–1945) invented the thermionic diode or valve. His invention was a major step forward in wireless technology as it was considerably more efficient as a radio wave detector than coherers or magnetic detectors. Valves became fundamental components in radios, as well as television sets and computers for 50 years, before being superseded by the transistor. The Marconi-Fleming valve receiver was the first radio receiver to make use of Fleming’s invention.