THE future of the National Railway Museum in York has been secured, following a campaign backed by thousands.
Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group, yesterday told a Select Committee hearing that the NRM would not close, ending weeks of anxiety.
The National Media Museum and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry are also safe, Mr Blatchford said.
The announcement came on the eve of huge celebrations starting at the NRM today, marking the 75th anniversary of Mallard setting the steam speed record. Mr Blatchford told the committee: “I can say that the museums are not shutting.
“One of the things that has slightly taken our breath away is that museum people often say, ‘the museums are valued by their local communities’. I don’t think anyone could be in any doubt that what we say, rather smugly, is profoundly true.”
Mr Blatchford said no national museum wanted to be a “subsidy junkie”, and welcomed what could be “a really significant breakthrough” from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who said he was pursuing a number of avenues for funding.
More than 13,500 people signed The Press’s Save The NRM petition in less than a fortnight after it was revealed last month that the museum and its sister attractions were under threat. An additional online petition also gained huge support.
City of York Council leader James Alexander said: “I would like to thank everyone who backed the community campaign in York, in particular The Press and Karen Liliman, who both launched petitions to save the NRM.”
Council chief executive Kersten England tweeted: “Ian Blatchford gives assurance that none of the northern museums in the SMG will close.”
Mr Vaizey told the meeting: “The fury of the last three weeks has given us a wake-up call,” but said: “While we have secured the future of these museums, no change is not an option.”
Coun Alexander called for SMG to clarify its position on charging. He said: “There is currently free entrance to the northern national science museums, and it is important that this continues if the museums are to play their full role in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists.”
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: “It is good to hear that the National Railway Museum will stay open. Well done to everyone, including The Press, for campaigning to keep this important local amenity open for future generations to enjoy.”
The news came as thousands were heading for the museum today for one of its largest ever events. The Great Gathering will see the museum’s famous Mallard locomotive united with its five surviving sister engines.
It is 75 years today since Mallard set the world steam speed record and she will be joined for the celebrations by locomotives Sir Nigel Gresley, Dwight D Eisenhower, Union of South Africa, Bittern and Dominion of Canada.
To celebrate the anniversary, Knaresborough has created a unique version of the locomotive. The flower bed at Knaresborough Castle, which looks out on the River Nidd railway viaduct, has been planted to depict Mallard, with matching colours.
Follow the Mallard celebrations on twitter via the #mallard75 hashtag.