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Science Museum Group to develop Riyadh hub after announcing partnership with Saudi Ministry of Culture

The UK’s Science Museum Group has revealed a significant partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture which includes the development of a new Museums Hub in Riyadh as the two nations focus on boosting co-operation, cultural exchange and more in the museum sector




The agreement was signed by Saudi assistant cultural minister Rakan Altouq (left) and SMG chief executive and director Sir Ian Blatchford (right)   Credit: Science Museum Group

The UK’s Science Museum Group (SMG) has announced a significant partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, which the organisation says will “enhance cultural exchange and co-operation” between the two countries.

Described as a “pivotal step in cultural diplomacy” between the two nations, the partnership will focus on boosting co-operation, cultural exchange, staff training and development, and transferring knowledge in the museum sector.

It will also see the development of a new Museums Hub in Riyadh, which is hoped to increase engagement with science and culture in the region.

The agreement was signed by Sir Ian Blatchford, SMG chief executive and director, and HE Rakan Altouq, Saudi assistant minister of culture in early February, and builds on an existing cultural memorandum of understanding that was signed by the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2022.

The move comes after the SMG previously declined a sponsorship agreement with a consortium that included Saudi oil group Aramco, potentially over concerns about human rights. However, an SMG spokesperson told Museums Journal that its primary reason for rejecting the sponsorship was due to Aramco’s low-carbon transition record.

The collaboration has been met with criticism from Culture Unstained, a research and campaigning organisation that aims to end fossil fuel sponsorships in the cultural sector.

“Just a few years ago the museum rejected a potential sponsorship deal, in part, over its links to Saudi Arabia and concerns about the state’s rights records. But this collaboration appears to have been rapidly waved through and at a time when Amnesty International still concludes that Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is ‘appalling’,” said a Culture Unstained spokesperson.

“From its defence of the rights-violating conglomerate Adani to this new collaboration, the museum’s stance does huge disservice to those communities around the world fighting for their rights.”

The SMG, however, has defended the decision, saying it has taken “considerable care” over the move, which was approved by its partnership panel and supported by its board of trustees.

“Our clear view is that there is a huge potential to support positive change and reform for people in Saudi Arabia by building science engagement amongst citizens and growing a strong sustainable museums sector,” Blatchford told Museums Journal.

“We take decisions about international partnerships with considerable care because some of the countries in which we work are not democracies, with human rights frameworks far below the standards we cherish.

“Internationalism is second nature for the SMG, both because of the power of cultural engagement and because collaboration between different nations has always been essential to addressing global challenges.”


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Science Museum Group to develop Riyadh hub after announcing partnership with Saudi Ministry of Culture | Planet Attractions
news

Science Museum Group to develop Riyadh hub after announcing partnership with Saudi Ministry of Culture

The UK’s Science Museum Group has revealed a significant partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture which includes the development of a new Museums Hub in Riyadh as the two nations focus on boosting co-operation, cultural exchange and more in the museum sector




The agreement was signed by Saudi assistant cultural minister Rakan Altouq (left) and SMG chief executive and director Sir Ian Blatchford (right)   Credit: Science Museum Group

The UK’s Science Museum Group (SMG) has announced a significant partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, which the organisation says will “enhance cultural exchange and co-operation” between the two countries.

Described as a “pivotal step in cultural diplomacy” between the two nations, the partnership will focus on boosting co-operation, cultural exchange, staff training and development, and transferring knowledge in the museum sector.

It will also see the development of a new Museums Hub in Riyadh, which is hoped to increase engagement with science and culture in the region.

The agreement was signed by Sir Ian Blatchford, SMG chief executive and director, and HE Rakan Altouq, Saudi assistant minister of culture in early February, and builds on an existing cultural memorandum of understanding that was signed by the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2022.

The move comes after the SMG previously declined a sponsorship agreement with a consortium that included Saudi oil group Aramco, potentially over concerns about human rights. However, an SMG spokesperson told Museums Journal that its primary reason for rejecting the sponsorship was due to Aramco’s low-carbon transition record.

The collaboration has been met with criticism from Culture Unstained, a research and campaigning organisation that aims to end fossil fuel sponsorships in the cultural sector.

“Just a few years ago the museum rejected a potential sponsorship deal, in part, over its links to Saudi Arabia and concerns about the state’s rights records. But this collaboration appears to have been rapidly waved through and at a time when Amnesty International still concludes that Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is ‘appalling’,” said a Culture Unstained spokesperson.

“From its defence of the rights-violating conglomerate Adani to this new collaboration, the museum’s stance does huge disservice to those communities around the world fighting for their rights.”

The SMG, however, has defended the decision, saying it has taken “considerable care” over the move, which was approved by its partnership panel and supported by its board of trustees.

“Our clear view is that there is a huge potential to support positive change and reform for people in Saudi Arabia by building science engagement amongst citizens and growing a strong sustainable museums sector,” Blatchford told Museums Journal.

“We take decisions about international partnerships with considerable care because some of the countries in which we work are not democracies, with human rights frameworks far below the standards we cherish.

“Internationalism is second nature for the SMG, both because of the power of cultural engagement and because collaboration between different nations has always been essential to addressing global challenges.”


 



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