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Glittering Director’s Dinner celebrates an exceptional year for the Science Museum

By Pete Dickinson, Head of Communication, Science Museum

More than 350 of the Science Museum’s most ardent supporters last night celebrated what Director Ian Blatchford described as an “exceptional year” for the museum, and the contribution of Chairman of the Board of Trustees Douglas Gurr.

Ian Blatchford welcomes guests to the 2014 Science Museum Director's Annual Dinner

Ian Blatchford welcomes guests to the 2014 Science Museum Director’s Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

The event was also distinguished by a speech given by the Director of the world’s most prestigious institute of theoretical research.

Usually the man to hand out the honours at the Annual Director’s Dinner, Dr Gurr was last night on the receiving end as he was named a Science Museum Fellow in recognition of the great impact he’s had in a decade as a trustee and four years as Chairman. Trustee Howard Covington praised Dr Gurr’s “enthusiasm energy and sheer hard work” as he announced the accolade to guests that included the new Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, Betty Jackson, Deborah Bull and Charles Simonyi.

The Right Hon Sajid Javid MP and Dr Douglas Gurr attend the 2014 Science Museum Director's Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

The Right Hon Sajid Javid MP and Dr Douglas Gurr attend the 2014 Science Museum Director’s Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

In his speech, Director Ian Blatchford remarked on how the huge success of our Collider exhibition shows what can be achieved by “dumbing up”. He also gave a glimpse of forthcoming highlights, notably the Information Age gallery and Cosmonauts exhibition and drew attention to the museum’s leading role in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers, most recently as part of the launch of the Your Life campaign.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili attends the 2014 Science Museum Director's Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

Professor Jim Al-Khalili attends the 2014 Science Museum Director’s Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

A wide range of scientists and academic luminaries were present, including Sir Ralph Kohn, Lord Rees, Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Helen Czerski and Professor Marcus du Sautoy and leading journalists including John Mulholland of the Observer, Sumit Paul-Choudhury of New Scientist, Pallab Ghosh of the BBC, Louise Jury of the Evening Standard and Geoffrey Carr of the Economist. There were also politicians, such as Shadow Science spokesman Liam Byrne and the Chairman of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Andrew Miller.

Michael Wilson OBE, The Right Hon Lord Rees of Ludlow, Lady Elise Becket Smith, Sir Martin Smith KBE, Veronika Covington and Howard Covington attend the 2014 Science Museum Director's Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

Michael Wilson OBE, The Right Hon Lord Rees of Ludlow, Lady Elise Becket Smith, Sir Martin Smith KBE, Veronika Covington and Howard Covington attend the 2014 Science Museum Director’s Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

The guests were treated to a speech, including a non-popping balloon experiment, by Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, who characterised the key to science – and life – as “guessing what is at the other side of the hill”. As an example of both the challenges and wonder of this game he pointed to the time between the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, celebrated in our Collider exhibition, and the papers by Peter Higgs and others that had first postulated its existence. Or as Professor Dijkraaf put it, “the five decades before this idea, crazy enough to be true, became reality”.

Professor Dr Robbert Dijkgraaf delivers a speech at the 2014 Science Museum Director's Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

Professor Dr Robbert Dijkgraaf delivers a speech at the 2014 Science Museum Director’s Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

Professor Dijkgraaf spoke of scientists’ duty engage the public by sharing their “stories and fascination, latest insights and discoveries” adding that he couldn’t think of a more appropriate location to do so than the museum, since “the universe cannot wish for a more perceptive eye than the Science Museum”. A talented artist, his own perceptive eye picked out Crick and Watson’s molecular model of the Double Helix as a particular favourite among the objects in the Making the Modern World gallery that provided a regal setting for a grand evening.

The Making the Modern World gallery hosts the 2014 Science Museum Director's Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

The Making the Modern World gallery hosts the 2014 Science Museum Director’s Annual Dinner © Tim Anderson

The night was brought to a fitting close by Dr Gurr reflecting one some of the highlights of the past four years at the Science Museum Group, from the Codebreaker exhibition and launch of  Media Space to the Museum of Science and Industry joining the Group, the reunion of Mallard with its surviving sister locomotives and the record numbers of visitors who came to the Science Museum in the past 12 months, exceeding 3.3 million.

From flash mobs to ‘eco’ picnics: celebrating Climate Science Outreach

Dani Williams, Project Co-ordinator for the Climate Science Outreach Project, reflects on the success of the three year project as it draws to a close.

How do you engage teenagers in climate change? This was our challenge when we launched the Climate Science Outreach Project – a three year project run by the museum in partnership with the National Railway Museum in York, Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, At-Bristol science centre and the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre.

Students from Beech House School, Rochdale with their artwork - The Whole World in Their Hands. Image credits: Science Museum

Students from Beech House School, Rochdale with their artwork – The Whole World in Their Hands. Image credits: Science Museum

The nationwide project was designed to inspire 13-14 year olds on the subject of climate change by equipping them with the skills to become climate ambassadors in their schools and communities. During each year of the project, schools were set a different challenge – allowing students to explore aspects of climate change on which they felt enthusiastic.

An artwork by Marple Hall School, Cheshire entitled The Last Tree. Image credits: Science Museum

An artwork by Marple Hall School, Cheshire entitled The Last Tree. Image credits: Science Museum

At the end of each year, the Science Museum turned the students’ finished work into a public exhibition or product, giving students an enormous sense of pride in their own achievements.

In year one, students were asked to create their own pieces of Sci-art on a climate change theme. Among the incredible artworks were a giant hand showing the five countries contributing the most towards carbon emissions and a homeless polar pear begging on the streets. The project was turned into a photographic exhibition which toured at each of the partner museums.

Homeless - an artwork of a polar bear created by Sale Grammar School, Manchester. Image credits: Science Museum

Homeless – an artwork of a polar bear created by Sale Grammar School, Manchester. Image credits: Science Museum

In year two, students from 50 schools across the country became science journalists, investigating and reporting on climate change stories affecting their communities. The result was a fascinating range of stories covering everything from community recycling initiatives to the use of sheep poo as a future energy source. The students’ stories were published in ATMOS – a special magazine for the project.

Students at the National Railway Museum see their articles in the ATMOS magazine. Image credits: Science Museum

Students at the National Railway Museum see their articles in the ATMOS magazine. Image credits: Science Museum

In the third and final year of the programme, students from 60 schools were set the challenge of organising and running a mass-participation event in their school or community to raise awareness of climate change.

Students from Shenley Brook End School with the results of their paintball workshop. Image credits: Science Museum

Students from Shenley Brook End School with the results of their paintball workshop. Image credits: Science Museum

Students were asked to submit proposals and bid for funding from the Science Museum. They were encouraged to think creatively and run unusual and exciting events that people might not ordinarily associate with science. The events included an endangered animal football match, recycled fashion shows, flash mobs and a cycle-powered cinema. Photographs from the events were displayed at a celebration party to mark the end of the project.

Students from Penryn School in polar bear masks for a performance in At-Bristol. Image credit: Science Museum

Students from Penryn School in polar bear masks for a performance in At-Bristol. Image credit: Science Museum

We are delighted with the results of the project. In addition to raising awareness of climate change, teachers have reported many additional benefits including increased confidence among the students, a greater interest in science and improved literacy.