Like our sister institutions in Oxford, such as the Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers Museum, and Bodleian Library, we are looking at ways in which we can harness the good will and affection people harbour for us, both nationally and internationally. One way would be to establish an organization of ‘Friends’. Such organizations have become so popular in recent years that there is now a voluntary body known as the ‘British Association of Friends of Museums’ that will help staff with setting up such an organization.
| In the past, we have thought long and hard whether Friends would be appropriate for the Museum of the History of Science. There are both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, an organization of Friends provides a good way of increasing public awareness of the Museum’s fine collections of instruments, many of which are so much more than mere artefacts of science. On the negative side, it could well prove to be an unprofitable administrative burden; but this would be offset if the appreciation of the Museum building and of its contents was widened significantly.
| But what could we offer Friends? In the first instance we could provide special conducted tours around parts of our collection, during which specific instruments would be taken out of their exhibition cases and discussed in detail. Such tours as these could deal with scientific issues as well as with questions relating to the broader cultural milieu. A series of evening lectures could also be given by the staff or invited speakers, and exhibitions could be opened to Friends at special times.
| While our ideas about a programme are still gestating, we have decided to establish a Friends’ Organization with an international membership and to plan activities in the light of our membership list. Overseas members may be content to support and be identified with the Museum simply by receiving publications and mailings; a strong local membership would indicate the need for a programme of events. At this stage we are keen to receive ideas from potential Friends. If you have any opinions about what a Friends’ Organization might provide for you, you are welcome to write to Willem Hackmann at the Museum, who will be the secretary of the organization and is keen to involve as many people as possible.