Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Competition - of a kind

One of the more surprising things to come to light recently is that another relevant museum project has been on the boil (actually a very low heat at best) for some years: a new Science & Technology Museum, aimed at children. We met this week with its Steering Committee at the Ministry of Communications and Technology, who rather unnervingly started by hoping that we could provide them with advisory and financial support. The Committee is a large one. We were told that the Ministry of Technology and Communications has allocated $20m to this project, and were confident that more would come from Germany. A paper summarising the context and content of the museum was presented. This presents a comprehensive catch-all list of possible subject areas and objects for inclusion. It does not cover the outcomes, audience, interpretation, style or values of the institution. Is it populist or scholarly, for instance? Nor does it examine the implications of the proposed content – live animals, as one example, require specific conditions and care. Old steam railway engines require a lot of floor space, and once in place are difficult to move. There did not appear to be anyone with direct management responsibility for taking the project forward, nor any broad understanding amongst the Committee of the specialised process on which they were embarking. We agreed to meet again.

In a subsequent meeting with Dr Alfred Kraft of DTZ, the German development organisation, he explained his fear that the Technology Museum project might be losing direction, and that its expectations of financial support from Germany were double what was likely. He felt that the two projects were too close in concept to avoid competition for funding, and the possibility of bringing them into one project should be examined. The same comment had been made by the Steering Committee who felt that our project should be subsumed into theirs. Dr Kraft felt that any amalgamation should work the other way. I have resisted his suggestion that I manage two projects.

I said in both meetings that we must work together to articulate what is distinctive about each project, what areas might exist for overlap and collaboration, and the specific value each will contribute. If the Berlin Science Museum is committed to provide some form of pro-bono support (and from the conversations so far I suspect this may be more what people here hope than what Berlin has in fact promised) I recommend that they should rapidly take on a role in helping to form a local management team to do the necessary concept and content development for the Science & Technology Museum. Without this step, the project will struggle to go forward, let alone deliver anything of worth.

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