After writing a few time to IWM’s Director-General, Diane Lees, she helpfully agreed to put my concerns about the the Annual Defence Dinner (the annual arms trader dinner held at IWM London) and other IWM funding from arms manufacturers, such as BAE Systems and Boeing UK, before the Board of Trustees, who are the ultimate decision-makers.
Ms Lees, reporting the Board’s decision, stated:
“The Board is confident that IWM has robust systems and policies in place to ensure that all financial contributions to IWM are appropriate and present no conflict of interest. Our financial supporters have no influence over the way we present our subject to the public, and our policy is to be unbiased, reflecting a variety of views and operating within the code of ethics for museums. Our subject is of course a very complex one and we take the ethics and sensitivities of how we present war and conflict very seriously.”
This response fails to properly discuss the ethics of funding and whether it is immoral to accept money from corporations that profit from conflict and openly arm violent, authoritarian regimes (with the approval of the government). Secondly, it asserts the editorial independence of the Museum from funders but offers no evidence for this. It is merely a claim by the Board which I am meant to accept blindly. I would, however, ask, how often IWM has examined the role of arms manufacturers in conflict in recent aldecades? How often, even, has IWM evaluated the motivations of British involvement in recent wars?
Moreover, you have to wonder where IWM would draw the line with funders. What is “inappropriate” as a funder if arms dealers who enable brutal, criminal violence by states and, in the case of BAE, are regularly exposed to be engaged in unlawful activity are considered appropriate by the Trustees?
Put simply, the letter is a, “trust us, we know best” from the Trustees.