The Science Museum
(separate status formalised 1909)
|Location|| Exhibition Road,|
Kensington & Chelsea London, SW7
|Visitors||3,174,963 (2018) |
|Public transit access|
|Science Museum Group|
The Science Museum is a major museum on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, London. It was founded in 1857 and today is one of the city's major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not charge visitors for admission, although visitors are asked for a donation if they are able. Temporary exhibitions may incur an admission fee. It is part of the Science Museum Group, having merged with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in 2012.
The museum was founded in 1857 under Bennet Woodcroft from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition as part of the South Kensington Museum, together with what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. It included a collection of machinery which became the Museum of Patents in 1858, and the Patent Office Museum in 1863. This collection contained many of the most famous exhibits of what is now the Science Museum.
In 1883, the contents of the Patent Office Museum were transferred to the South Kensington Museum. In 1885, the Science Collections were renamed the Science Museum and in 1893 a separate director was appointed.The Art Collections were renamed the Art Museum, which eventually became the Victoria and Albert Museum.
When Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the new building for the Art Museum, she stipulated that the museum be renamed after herself and her late husband. This was initially applied to the whole museum, but when that new building finally opened ten years later, the title was confined to the Art Collections and the Science Collections had to be divorced from it.On 26 June 1909 the Science Museum, as an independent entity, came into existence.
The Science Museum's present quarters, designed by Sir Richard Allison, were opened to the public in stages over the period 1919–28.This building was known as the East Block, construction of which began in 1913 and temporarily halted by World War I. As the name suggests it was intended to be the first building of a much larger project, which was never realized. However, the Museum buildings were expanded over the following years; a pioneering Children's Gallery with interactive exhibits opened in 1931, the Centre Block was completed in 1961-3, the infill of the East Block and the construction of the Lower & Upper Wellcome Galleries in 1980, and the construction of the Wellcome Wing in 2000 result in the Museum now extending to Queen's Gate.
Parts of this article (those related to Collections) need to be updated.November 2019)(
The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson's Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine, the Apollo 10 command module, a reconstruction of Francis Crick and James Watson's model of DNA, some of the earliest remaining steam engines (Including an example of a Newcomen steam engine, the world’s first steam engine), a working example of Charles Babbage's Difference engine, the first prototype of the 10,000-year Clock of the Long Now, and documentation of the first typewriter. It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits. A recent addition is the IMAX 3D Cinema showing science and nature documentaries, most of them in 3-D, and the Wellcome Wing which focuses on digital technology.Entrance has been free since 1 December 2001.
The museum houses some of the many objects collected by Henry Wellcome around a medical theme. The fourth floor exhibit is called "Glimpses of Medical History", with reconstructions and dioramas of the history of practised medicine. The fifth floor gallery is called "Science and the Art of Medicine", with exhibits of medical instruments and practices from ancient days and from many countries. The collection is strong in clinical medicine, biosciences and public health. The museum is a member of the London Museums of Health & Medicine.
The Science Museum has a dedicated library, and until the 1960s was Britain's National Library for Science, Medicine and Technology. It holds runs of periodicals, early books and manuscripts, and is used by scholars worldwide. It was, for a number of years, run in conjunction with the Central Library of Imperial College, but in 2007 the Library was divided over two sites. Histories of science and biographies of scientists were kept at the Imperial College Library until February 2014 when the arrangement was terminated, the shelves were cleared and the books and journals shipped out, joining the rest of the collection, which includes original scientific works and archives, in Wroughton, Wiltshire.The Imperial College library catalogue search system now informs searchers that volumes formerly held there are "Available at Science Museum Library Swindon Currently unavailable". A new Research Centre with library facilities is promised for late 2015 but is unlikely to have book stacks nearby.
The Science Museum's medical collections have a global scope and coverage. Strengths include Clinical Medicine, Biosciences and Public Health. The new Wellcome Wing, with its focus on Bioscience, makes the Museum a leading world centre for the presentation of contemporary science to the public.
As of 2019 [update] 170,000 items which are not on current display are stored at Blythe House in West Kensington, in addition to storage at the Science Museum at Wroughton, a 220-hectare (545-acre) former RAF base near Swindon owned by the Museum since 1979. Blythe House storage is shared with the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and also houses facilities including a conservation laboratory, a photographic studio, and a quarantine area where newly arrived items are examined.
The museums have to move out of Blythe House. The Science Museum will use £40m from the government to develop the Wroughton site and put many previously stored items on display there from 2023, in addition to storage, conservation labs, and research facilities.
In November 2003, the Science Museum opened the Dana Centre. The centre is an urban bar and café annexed to the museum. It was designed by MJP Architects.
In October 2007, the Science Museum cancelled a talk by the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, James D. Watson, because he claimed that IQ test results showed blacks to have lower intelligence than whites. The decision was criticised by some scientists, including Richard Dawkins,as well as supported by other scientists, including Steven Rose.
Around 450,000 young people visit the Science Museum on educational trips or benefit from its outreach programmes each year, more than any other UK museum.
The Science Museum also organises "Science Night", "all-night extravaganza with a scientific twist". Up to 380 children aged between 8 and 11, accompanied by adults, are invited to spend an evening performing fun "science based" activities and then spend the night sleeping in the museum galleries amongst the exhibits. In the morning, they're woken to breakfast and more science, watching a film before the end of the event.
On the evening of the last Wednesday of every month (except December) the museum organises an adults only evening with up to 30 events, from lectures to silent discos. Previous Lates have seen conversations with the actress activist Lily Coleand Biorevolutions with the Francis Crick Institute which attracted around 7000 people, mostly under the age of 35.
The Science Museum is made up of a number of galleries, some of which are permanent, and some of which are temporary.
The East Hall is the first area that most visitors see as they enter the building, stretching up through three floors. On the ground, the area is mostly filled with iconic steam engines of various sorts, including the oldest surviving James Watt beam engine, which together tell the story of the British industrial revolution. Up in the air, suspended from the ceiling is a giant metallic ring, the inside of which is covered in white LEDs which form patterns and display messages typed into kiosks by visitors in the Energy gallery.
Also on display is a recreation of James Watt's garret workshop from his home, Heathfield Hall, using over 8,300 objects removed from the room, which was sealed after his 1819 death, when the hall was demolished in 1927.
Exploring Space is a historical gallery, filled with rockets and exhibits that tell the story of human space exploration and the benefits that space exploration has brought us (particularly in the world of telecommunications).
Making the Modern World is a relatively new gallery, in which some of the museum's most iconic objects, including Stephenson's Rocket, Watson and Crick's double helix, and the Apollo 10 command module are displayed along a timeline chronicling man's technological achievements.
Flight is another longstanding gallery, up towards the western end of the third floor. Contained in the gallery are several full sized aeroplanes and helicopters, including Alcock and Brown's transatlantic Vickers Vimy (1919), Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, as well as numerous aero-engines and a cross-section of a Boeing 747.
One of the most popular galleries in the museum is the interactive Launchpad gallery. Redesigned and reopened in November 2007, the new look gallery houses over 50 interactive exhibits illustrating many different concepts in physical science. The gallery is staffed by Explainers who are available to demonstrate how exhibits work, conduct live experiments and perform shows to schools and the visiting public. Launchpad has now closed,the Science Museum are preparing a new Interactive gallery which opened in late 2016. The new gallery is bigger than Launchpad and packed with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits.
This gallery is a collaboration between the Science Museum and the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, home of a photography collection of more than three million images.
The landmark gallery explores the six networks that have transformed global communications: The Cable, The Telephone Exchange, Broadcast, The Constellation, The Cell and The Web/
It was opened on 24 October 2014 by the Queen, Elizabeth II, who sent her first tweet.It replaced the former Shipping galleries, on the second floor, which closed on 15 May 2012. Their contents were 3D scanned and made available online.
This gallery opened in December 2014, and aims to inspire school children to go into careers in engineering. It was developed with a consortium of companies and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
A suite of five permanent galleries dedicated to the history of medicine is due to open in the Autumn of 2019.The galleries will be based on the collections of Henry Wellcome and the Science Museum. The permanent collection “Being Human” has design and content tailored to the needs of disabled people.
These range from the award-winning Codebreaker, on the life of Alan Turing,to Unlocking Lovelock, which explores the archive of James Lovelock.
The Science Museum has developed many touring exhibitions over the years. The Science Box contemporary science series toured various venues in the UK and Europe in the 1990s and from 1995 The Science of Sport appeared in various incarnations and venues around the World. In 2005 The Science Museum teamed up with Fleming Media to set up The Science of... who develop and tour exhibitions including The Science of Aliens , The Science of Spying and The Science of Survival
In 2008, The Science of Survival exhibition opened to the public and allowed visitors to explore what the world might be like in 2050 and how humankind will meet the challenges of climate change and energy shortages.
In 2014 the museum launched the family science Energy Show, which toured the country.
The same year it began a new programme of touring exhibitions which opened with Collider: Step inside the world’s greatest experiment to much critical acclaim. The exhibition takes visitors behind the scenes at CERN and explores the science and engineering behind the discovery of the Higgs Boson. The exhibition will tour until early 2017.
Media Space exhibitions also go on tour, notably Only in England which displays works by the great photographers Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr.
The museum is adjacent to the Natural History Museum and used to be connected to it by a public corridor, which is now closed. The closest London Underground station is South Kensington; a subway connects the museums to the station.
At the front of the museum to the east is Exhibition Road. Immediately to the south is Museum Lane and the Natural History Museum. To the rear is Queen's Gate and to the north is Imperial College.
The Science Museum underwent a series of refurbishments as part of a vision to update the museum. The East Hall has been finished and the renovated museum shop opened in October 2005.
The Science Museum's website has a variety of features, including collections information and the award-winning Launchball game.
The museum joined the 10:10 project in 2009 in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. One year later it announced that it had reduced its carbon emissions (according to 10:10's criteria) by 17%.
The leading academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan published the official centenary history of the Science Museum on 14 April 2010. The first complete history of the Science Museum since 1957, Science for the Nation: Perspectives on the History of the Science Museum is a series of individual views by Science Museum staff and external academic historians of different aspects of the Science Museum's history. While it is not a chronological history in the conventional sense, the first five chapters cover the history of the museum from the Brompton Boilers in the 1860s to the opening of the Wellcome Wing in 2000. The remaining eight chapters cover a variety of themes concerning the Museum's development.
The Directors of the South Kensington Museum were:
The Directors of the Science Museum have been:
The following have been Head/Director of the Science Museum in London, not including its satellite museums:
The following have been Directors of the National Museum of Science and Industry, (since April 2012 renamed the Science Museum Group) which oversees the Science Museum and other related museums, from 2002:
The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, England, is a large museum devoted to the development of science, technology and industry with emphasis on the city's achievements in these fields. The museum is part of the Science Museum Group, a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, having merged with the National Science Museum in 2012.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BM&AG) is a museum and art gallery in Birmingham, England. It has a collection of international importance covering fine art, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, natural history, archaeology, ethnography, local history and industrial history.
World Museum is a large museum in Liverpool, England which has extensive collections covering archaeology, ethnology and the natural and physical sciences. Special attractions include the Natural History Centre and a planetarium. Entry to the museum is free. The museum is part of National Museums Liverpool.
Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum is a science museum in Birmingham, England. Opened in 2001, it is part of Birmingham Museums Trust and is located within the Millennium Point complex on Curzon Street, Digbeth.
The Wellcome Trust is a research charity based in London, United Kingdom. It was established in 1936 with legacies from the pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome to fund research to improve human and animal health. The aim of the Trust is to "achieve extraordinary improvements in health by supporting the brightest minds", and in addition to funding biomedical research it supports the public understanding of science. It had a financial endowment of £25.9 billion in 2018, making it the fourth wealthiest charitable foundation in the world, after the American Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Danish Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Dutch INGKA Foundation.
Turbinia was the first steam turbine-powered steamship. Built as an experimental vessel in 1894, and easily the fastest ship in the world at that time, Turbinia was demonstrated dramatically at the Spithead Navy Review in 1897 and set the standard for the next generation of steamships, the majority of which would be turbine powered. The vessel is currently located at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England, while her original powerplant is located at the Science Museum in London.
The Museum of Science (MoS) is a science museum and indoor zoo in Boston, Massachusetts, located in Science Park, a plot of land spanning the Charles River. Along with over 700 interactive exhibits, the museum features a number of live presentations throughout the building every day, along with shows at the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni Theater, the only domed IMAX screen in New England. The museum is also an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is home to over 100 animals, many of which have been rescued and rehabilitated.
Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome FRS was a British pharmaceutical entrepreneur. He founded the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome & Company with his colleague Silas Burroughs in 1880, which is one of the four large companies to eventually merge to form GlaxoSmithKline. In addition, he left a large amount of capital for charitable work in his will, which was used to form the Wellcome Trust, one of the world's largest medical charities. He was also a keen collector of medical artifacts which are now displayed at the Wellcome Collection.
The Design Museum is a museum in Kensington, London, which covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion, and architectural design. In 2018 the museum won the European Museum of the Year Award.
The Wellcome Library is founded on the collection formed by Sir Henry Wellcome (1853–1936), whose personal wealth allowed him to create one of the most ambitious collections of the 20th century. Henry Wellcome's interest was the history of medicine in a broad sense and included subjects such as alchemy or witchcraft, but also anthropology and ethnography. Since Henry Wellcome’s death in 1936, the Wellcome Trust has been responsible for maintaining the Library's collection and funding its acquisitions. The library is free and open to the public.
The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, is a museum of the history of medicine adjacent to St James's University Hospital. In 1998 it won "Museum of the Year" and has other awards including in 2004 both the "Excellence in England Small Tourist Attraction of the Year" and "Sandford Award for Heritage Education".
The Dana Library and Research Centre on Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London is part of the Science Museum.
The Anchorage Museum is a large art, history, ethnography, ecology and science museum located in a modern building in the heart of Anchorage, Alaska. It is dedicated to studying and exploring the land, peoples, art and history of Alaska.
The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science is a general-interest museum located on the Ohio riverfront in downtown Evansville, Indiana, United States. Founded in 1904, it is one of Southern Indiana's most established and significant cultural institutions, with comprehensive collections in art, history, anthropology and science. It has a permanent collection of over 30,000 objects including fine arts, decorative arts, historic documents and photographs, and anthropologic and natural history artifacts. Also on the Museum's campus is the Evansville Museum Transportation Center, featuring Southern Indiana transportation artifacts from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 was a very substantial exhibition held in South Kensington in London, and intended "to stimulate commerce and strengthen the bonds of union now existing in every portion of her Majesty's Empire". The exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria, and when it closed had received 5.5 million visitors.
The Science Museum at Wroughton, near Swindon, England, is the collections management facility for the Science Museum Group. and the Science Museum Library & Archives.
The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, Scotland, was formed in 2006 with the merger of the new Museum of Scotland, with collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history, and the adjacent Royal Scottish Museum, with collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures. The two connected buildings stand beside each other on Chambers Street, by the intersection with the George IV Bridge, in central Edinburgh. The museum is part of National Museums Scotland. Admission is free.
The Wellcome Collection is a museum and library based at 183 Euston Road, London, displaying a mixture of medical artefacts and original artworks exploring "ideas about the connections between medicine, life and art". Founded in 2007, Wellcome Collection now attracts over 700,000 visitors per year and is advertised as "the free destination for the incurably curious". The venue offers contemporary and historic exhibitions and collections, the Wellcome Library, a café, a bookshop and conference facilities.
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