Category Archives: Co-creation

The end of AIDS?

Nicola Burghall, Content Developer, blogs about HIV and AIDS, the subject of a new display in the Museums Who Am I? gallery

December 1st 2014 marks the 26th World AIDS Day. The UNAIDS ‘90-90-90’ initiative sets ambitious global targets to end the epidemic by 2030. So how far have we come since the epidemic gained global attention in the 1980s? Here at the Science Museum we decided to explore this question with our new exhibit - The end of AIDS?

The new display ‘The end of AIDS?’ in the Museum’s Who Am I? gallery. Credit: Science Museum

The new display ‘The end of AIDS?’ in the Museum’s Who Am I? gallery. Image Credit: Science Museum

The focal point of the exhibit is an animation called ‘Growing up with HIV’. It was created in collaboration with an inspiring group of young people who live with HIV and the National Children’s Bureau. It tells the story of a young mum-to-be looking forward to the birth of her first child, while she reflects on her life and what it was like to grow up with HIV.

The group created the animation in just four workshops. First they visited the Who Am I? gallery, where they learned about our visitors and science communication. We then discussed what HIV means to them and interviewed an expert about what it does. Over the following sessions we narrowed down what were the most important messages and how to help visitors relate to them.

A key idea was to challenge some of the commonly held misconceptions by explaining what HIV does and the success of current treatment. They decided to tell a personal story about the struggles we can all face growing up.

Struggle and progress turned out to be a strong theme for the animation – referring both to science (trying to improve treatment for HIV) and people (trying to live full, healthy and happy lives).

The rest of the display was built up around the conversations we had during the workshops and from talking with experts. A key message is the importance of testing. In the UK 20% of the estimated 100,000 people who live with HIV are not aware of their infection. In the display we included a postal sampling kit from the Terrence Higgins Trust, which is available for free to high-risk groups.

You can also find a concert programme from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness, held in 1992. It was at this event that 100,000 red ribbons were first distributed in the UK. The ribbon is now the iconic symbol of public awareness and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

From our stores we brought out a collection of drug packaging which represents all the drugs an HIV patient may have taken in one month in 1999. Today some patients can take just one pill a day and trials have begun for a monthly injection. The last section of the display looks at the latest research and includes the story of Timothy Ray Brown – the only person to have been cured of HIV.

I hope you will be able to visit the display and find it as enlightening and inspiring as I have working on it. I’d like to end this post with a few words from our group:

‘We are all going through our own struggles, but we can achieve anything we want’.

The end of AIDS? opened on 28 November and will be on display in the Science Museum’s Who Am I? gallery until late February 2015.

Recruiting for Research

We are designing a new App for visitors to the Museum and we need your help.

The Museum is looking for participants to help us create content and design a new way for visitors to engage with the objects on display in the museum. You would need to be able to travel to the Science Museum in London for two or three activities in May, where you would get to see behind the scenes at the museum and explore an early prototype of the app, directly contributing to its development.

You don’t need to know anything about app development to take part, as we are just looking for people that are interested in visiting Museums and using mobile technology.

We welcome interest from all sections of the community, and will endeavour to meet any accessibility needs that you may have. The activities will be arranged at a time to suit your schedule, which could even be evenings or weekend, and you will receive a thank you for your time.

If you think you might be interested in getting involved, or have any questions, please get in touch with Jane Rayner ( for more information by May 6th.

Two musicians exploring an object from our collection of musical instruments during the Oramics to Electronica project.

Science Museum History Open House – 16 June 2012

Two musicians exploring an object from our collection of musical instruments during the Oramics to Electronica project. (Science Museum)


Are you an arts organisation in search of inspiration?

Is your local history society researching your science and technology heritage?

Or are you a patient group interested in the history of a medical profession or practice?


 The Science Museum wants to encourage community groups, enthusiast groups and local historians to use the museum’s resources as part of their historical research.

 The Museum has a vast collection of objects and archives representing the history of Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine in theUK. When we make exhibitions or carry out research, our collections, library and archive are an important source of information and inspiration. But access to these resources is not limited to Science Museum staff. We regularly support research by students and academics, but also subject enthusiasts and community groups.

 During the Science Museum History Open House  on Saturday 16 June we will give an introduction to the Science Museum’s collections and ways in which they can be accessed. You will hear about projects we have supported in the past and will have the opportunity to explore some of the objects and archive materials that might be relevant to you.

 There will also be a chance to find out more about the All Our Stories grant scheme. With this scheme the Heritage Lottery Fund wants to support community groups who want to explore, share and celebrate their heritage.


 Attendance is free, but places are limited. We advise that a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 members of your society or group attend.

Please register by sending an email to

To help us plan the event, please include the name of your group or society and specify your area of interest.


 Members of the British Vintage Wireless Society researching the museum’s collection of early radios. (Science Museum)


The Science Museum has a wide range of historic collections; from steam engine models, to planes, historic domestic appliances and medical equipment. More information about our collections can be found here.

 The Science Museum Library and Archives hold papers of individuals and companies, such as Charles Babbage, Sir Humphry Davy and Hooper & Co (coachbuilders), as well as original printed materials, such as books, papers and patents. Follow this link for more information.

Our infamous Sound Switcher in action last Half Term.

The Open Lab experience

Entertaining stampeding children, discussing the complexities of the human mind, and making people marvel at incredible illusions – all part of a day’s work at Lottolab. For those of you who haven’t heard of Lottolab, it’s a perception research space and the only place in the Science Museum where multiple real science experiments take place. For the past few months I have volunteered at Lottolab and gained great insight into a totally unique and highly interactive museum experience.

Unlike other museum spaces, Lottolab doesn’t have many exhibits in the usual sense. In fact, on entering you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled into a forbidden section, perhaps a sort of experimental wing. And in a way you’d be right. Lottolab is experimental in so many ways; take a look at this video for an overview:

[yframe url='']

Rather than spending hours reading signs about old bits and pieces, here you’re more likely to find yourself approached by a rather charming volunteer and asked to take part in an experiment. Not just any old experiment though – a perception study (and they’re the most fun, because they’re about you!). You might even end up blindfolded, trying to navigate your way around a maze, using only an iPod application which converts colour into sound.

The most impressive part of the maze experiment is that it’s designed by kids. A key philosophy of Lottolab is that people shouldn’t only take part in experiments, but also make them. It’s this high level of public participation that inspires everything we do. Many of our studies end up published in scientific journals and so contribute to the formal advancement of scientific knowledge.

Our infamous Sound Switcher in action last Half Term.

During my time at Lottolab, I created the short video you can see above, with Program Manager David Robertson explaining the lab and its mission (as well as showing people attempting the blindfold experiment). Hopefully it gives you a sense of what a totally unique and truly interactive place Lottolab is. Whether you want to take part in an experiment, suggest your own or simply admire some incredible tricks of the mind, there’s something for you here.

Lottolab are open in the Science Museum until the 20th of April, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (12-4pm) next to the Energy Gallery on the second floor – though we hope to be reopening in a new-look gallery in the summer, so stay tuned if you don’t get to pay us a visit this time. We look forward to meeting you!

This post, and the associated video, were created by Lottolab volunteer Samuel Cavenagh.

EDP Wasp Synthesiser

Oramics to electronica phase two

This Tuesday the second phase of Oramics to Electronica opened to the public.

On display alongside Daphne Oram’s Oramics Machine are early synthesisers, computers, rarely seen objects from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire’s favourite instrument – a slightly battered lampshade!

EDP Wasp Synthesiser

EDP Wasp Synthesiser

We’ve been working with 12 musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds to gather their ‘take’ on the history of electronic music as well as a group of highly influential former employees of the BBC Radiophonic workshop and Electronic music studios. You can watch a short documentary film about the exhibition from conception through to completion here.

To celebrate the exhibition’s launch we held an evening event on Monday night for the press, members of the BBC Radiophonic workshop, members of Daphne’s family and the musicians who participated in the second phase.  Brian Eno introduced the exhibition and spoke about  the impact advances  in technology have on the way we produce music.

Tom Cowan and Rhys Webb from The Horrors also popped down to meet some of their musical influencers from the BBC Radiophonc workshop.  Here they are below standing next to the BBC Radiophonic cabinet on display at the exhibition now.

Tom Cowan and Rhys Webb in front of the BBC Radiophonic cabinet at the Science Museum

To celebrate phase two and raise Daphne’s profile among a new generation of music makers we are collaborating with, Goldsmiths, University of London, SoundcloudBoomkat and the Daphne Oram Trust to launch ‘Oramix’ – a remix competition.

We are inviting musicians to use the space-age sounds from Daphne Oram and create a new track:

Imagine that the producer of Our World, the 1967 TV programme that first linked the world via satellites, had commissioned Daphne Oram, the pioneer of electronica, to make its soundtrack.

The entries will be judged by renowned electronic musicians Brian Eno and DJ Spooky and our winner will receive a one year Soundcloud pro account, a Daphne Oram Boomkat box set and an interview and feature right here! More details to follow…

Make sure you are following us on Twitter or Facebook to find out more. See you at the exhibition.

A question mark

What’s your problem?

Do you have an everyday problem you wish someone could solve? Annoyed by cartons that don’t pour properly or people talking too loudly on public transport?

Well now is your chance to share those everyday irritations with our inventor in residence, Mark Champkins. If you’re lucky he’ll take on the challenge of solving it for you!

A question mark

Question Mark Squircle by Xurble

All you have to do is Tweet us your problem including the hashtag #whatsyourproblem or send us an email to:

Mark will select one of your problems and then we’ll chart his progress (successes and failures) as he tries to come up with an invention to help solve your woes.

By entering you will also be in with the chance to win membership of the Museum and a copy of 1001 Inventions that Changed the World.

Visit our website for more information and the competitions terms and conditions.  You have until 31 October to enter, so spread the word and let’s solve some problems!

Alan Sutcliffe speaking at the meeting

Back to the future of electronic music

Post written by Miriam Hay.

While researching our new exhibition about the history of electronic music, we had the amazing opportunity to meet a few of the people who were there making music in the 1960s and 70s, when futuristic electronic sounds were being experimented with for the very first time.

Dick Mills, Roger Limb and Steve Marshall had all previously been part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, set up in 1958 to produce electronic sound effects and jingles for radio and television including, most famously, the theme music for Doctor Who.

We were also joined by Peter Zinovieff and Alan Sutcliffe of Electronic Music Studio, a music research establishment formed by Peter in the early 1960s. It famously produced the first commercial synthesizer in Britain, the VCS3.

It was great to see the union of what had been two relatively independent strands of electronic music history around one table, as they shared with us their memories and experiences of working at a time when electronic music was startlingly new.

It was the invention of tape that was the catalyst, enabling different sounds to be cut and stuck together to make a recorded track. Before this, individual sounds had been recorded onto discs or spools of steel wire which meant that it was impossible for them to be edited together in advance.

Dick Mills gave us an animated description of the rather frantic work of playing multiple discs at the same time to provide sound effects for live radio broadcasts. Each disc ran for only 2 minutes, so you had to keep two running for background noise, playing one while you re-started the other, while adding in other effects such as wind and birds as needed with cries of “don’t forget the owl!”

Peter Zinovieff, founder of EMS, had been taught how to splice tape by Daphne Oram. She had been a founder of the Radiophonic Workshop and creator of the Oramics Machine, which is the focus of the first phase of our exhibition.

Peter told us that the tiresome process of ‘cutting and sticking’ inspired him to experiment with computers to create sound without fiddling about with tape. His desire was for a computer to put the sounds together all by itself. This eventually resulted in the first concert performance by a computer in 1968.

Peter took up making music again several years ago and talked about a recent concert in Istanbul. He had meant to finish his speech by announcing this new standing as a composer. However nerves got the better of him and in an ironically comic twist he actually accidentally concluded by saying: “At last, I am now a computer!”

The development from ‘computer’ to ‘composer’ was noted by the group as a whole. Nowadays, they said, the computer has become almost ‘transparent’ - a tool to get something else done - while in the pioneering 1960s electronics itself was an art - something to be studied, developed, and experimented with. Musicians also had to be engineers, testing and stretching the initial primitive capacities of the limited equipment available.

Almost in summary, the words of the late Delia Derbyshire (who worked at the Radiophonic workshop and introduced Peter to Alan) were quoted. She had realised that while the musical products of her generation of electronic artists weren’t yet the best that the medium had to offer, they would prove crucially important for what was to come. This was what the future would sound like.

The Oramics to Electronica exhibition is already partially open. It will be fully opened on 10th October, and will run until December 2012.

The Oramics Machine being Installed

Oramics to Electronica

You may remember back in May we were looking for musicians to help us create an exhibition focusing on Daphne Oram’s Oramics Machine. Well, this Friday the first phase of the exhibition will be opening.

You will be able to see the original Oramics Machine – a unique synthesizer – invented in the1960s by Daphne Oram – who established the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. This extraordinary device, long thought lost, is groundbreaking in the history of electronic music.

Tim Boon, our Chief Curator, said: “The new exhibition is all about the birth of electronic music and its many influences on today’s music scene and we’re so pleased to be able to showcase the amazing Oramics Machine at the Science Museum – few people have been able to see it since the 1980s and this is a great opportunity. Our new interactive also allows you to recreate the sound of the Oramics Machine – so you can compose and arrange your own music.”

Mick Grierson, Director of the Daphne Oram Collection, Goldsmiths, University of London, said: “The Oramics Machine is a device of great importance to the development of British electronic music. It’s a great shame that Daphne’s contribution has never been fully recognised, but now that we have the machine at the Science Museum, it’s clear for all to see that she knew exactly how music was going to be made in the future, and created the machine to do it.”

A new iPhone app called ‘Oramics’, has also been developed by Goldsmiths, University of London, to recreate the sound of the Oramics Machine. You can see a video of this in action below:

Earlier this morning there was a ripple of excitement and anticipation in the Museum as a team of conservationists bought the machine from its storage place in Blythe House. Our co-creators and curators looked on as this one-of-a-kind machine was placed into its case on gallery.

The Oramics Machine being Installed

On 10 October, a second stage of the exhibition will open, which will showcase an array of electronic music and sound reproduction equipment. It will be co-created by a range of individuals working with electronic music today. The Museum is also working together with employees of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Electronic Music Studio (EMS), who produced the first commercial British synthesizer: VCS3.

You can follow phase two of the exhibition on the dedicated Oramics Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter.

The Oramics Machine during conservation

Electronic musicians wanted

We are looking for musicians with a passion for electronic music to co-curate an upcoming exhibition. It is centered around one of the oldest and most intriguing electronic music devices, which we acquired in 2009.   
The Oramics Machine was invented by Daphne Oram, who had founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and later set up her own studio.

The machine was a tad dusty, to say the least, so over the last year, our conservators have lovingly restored it. And now this grande dame of electronic music will return to the stage once more. In honour of its return, we are organising a temporary exhibition about the history of electronic music.

Among other things, we will be exploring how electronic music has influenced and been influenced by society over the last 60+ years. In developing this exhibition we would like to work together with people who know electronic and digital music from the inside.

In a series of workshops we will explore the history of electronic music and relevant objects in the Science Museum stores. You will get a look behind the scenes and contribute to an exhibition that will open in the autumn of 2011.

If you want to be a part of this, please email us at and tell us in 300 words or less:
1. Why you love electronic music
2. What kind of music you make and how you share it with others
3. How much you know about the history of electronic music

It doesn’t have to be an essay - feel free to be creative in your response.

And finally, let us know whether you would be able to work with us in London during the day on Tuesdays in June and July this year.

Please make sure to send in your submission before the deadline of 12 pm, 30 May 2011.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Ps. Check out the Oramics Machine on Facebook if you want to be the first to know about upcoming events and competitions.