THROUGH a government-initiated scheme administered by the Museums and Galleries Commission, twenty-six non-national museums have recently been recognized as being of ‘pre-eminent’ importance to the nation’s heritage.
It was announced this July that the Museum of the History of Science has been included amongst those recognized, and now counts itself a member of what has been dubbed the ‘premier league’ of British museums.
As well as being bestowed on the Museum, the accolade ‘Designated as a museum with an outstanding collection’ also went to three of the other University museums in Oxford – the Ashmolean, the Pitt Rivers and the University Museum of Natural History. Nationally, museums of science and technology were well represented: the list included the Whipple Museum in Cambridge, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and the North of England Open Air Museum in Beamish, together with several other museums of transport and industry.
As a stamp of quality alone, ‘Designation’ is meant to encourage benefactors, including the National Lottery. The more immediate effect, however, at least for the Museum, is the satisfaction of gaining official recognition, not only for the quality of the collections as a whole but also for the importance of the building in the history of museums.