Museum man resigns over Darwin sign row

The member of staff who said a display at Abington Park Museum had been covered because of a complaint by a creationist has resigned over the issue.

Gary Arthur, who was an attendant at the museum, resigned last Friday after a meeting with the head of the museums service at Northampton Borough Council, when they discussed the comments he had made to a family visiting the museum, who had queried why a portion of text about Charles Darwin had been obscured.

A row broke out last month after it emerged the museum had covered a portion of text on an exhibition about evolution following a complaint, leading to claims the museum was pandering to religious sensibilities.

The meeting was arranged after Mr Arthur, who holds a degree in archaeology, admitted making the comments about the board being covered over because of a complaint by a Christian fundamentalist.

He said: "I was taken around to the display board (by the head of the museums service], which by this time had been uncovered, and again I was told the official museum line about why the information board had been censored; bad grammar and confusing text."

Mr Arthur said the section of sign which had been complained about – which mentioned "the biblical view of evolution" – was not the part which had been covered over, although a borough council spokesman said this was not the case.

He continued: "Sometimes things just don't ring right. I was expecting a disciplinary but it didn't happen. Some of the things that were said to me didn't make sense. I thought it was very, very bizarre and I decided to resign.

"Museums are part of our education system. They are an educational resource that people can use. It's important to have these facilities.

"I have no problem with what people believe but the moment it impinges on education or politics they need to back off. Let's present the truth to children, let's let them make up their own minds.

"There is a huge amount of evidence. What we mustn't do is start putting our particular views on the children without evidence."

Lewis Houston, who had originally raised the issue about the sign three years ago, said: "I have no complaint about the display. I didn't ask that they put in a creationist view. I pointed out the phrases were in error.

"I was an evolutionist but when I graduated as a professional engineer I lost my faith in evolution."

Mr Houston said he raised the issue with the museum because the phrases were theologically inaccurate and not because of his beliefs.

Councillor Brendan Glynane (Lib Dem, Delapre), Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for museums, said the council had not attempted to censor the sign and were in the process of getting a new board.