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Collections and Objects

Our world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Come behind the scenes as we explore new object acquisitions and meet the conservation team.

Ah, the half-term holidays. It was great to see so many visitors to the Science Museum last week – hope you had a good time! Others may perhaps have jetted away with the kids for a relaxing overseas break. Did you use Heathrow Airport? These days there are several ways to get there: car, taxi, train, Tube or coach. But for many travellers back in the 1950s, coach was the only option: That’s our AEC ‘Regal IV’ airline coach from […]

A couple of Sundays ago, I was waiting to cross the road when a pack of bikers rode past on Triumph motorcycles. I assumed they were off to a rally until I saw on the news later that Edward Turner, Triumph designer, was being honoured at a blue plaque unveiling in Peckham, London. That explained it. Turner designed the Ariel ‘Square Four’ motorbike in the late 1920s, released at the 1930 Motorcycle Show. It was a very popular bike and stayed in production […]

November 2 is the Day of the Dead, a colourful Mexican festival where people remember friends and family members who have died. A perfect day to have a look at some of our objects which represent the dead … First off there are death masks, used both to commemorate the famous and the criminal. This death mask of Benjamin Disraeli was taken six hours after he died in 1881. We’ve also got some slightly gruesome anatomical models:  Such models would normally be made as educational tools, but […]

On Saturday I visited the Kingsway tram tunnel in central London. This wonderful piece of Edwardian transport infrastructure opened in 1906 to allow electric trams to traverse central London without being held up by the horse-drawn congestion above ground: It was initially built for single-deck trams (compare my pic with this period photo from the London Transport Museum), but the tunnel was enlarged in the 1930s to accommodate double-deck vehicles similar to this one in our reserve collection, originally from Glasgow: However, by the second […]

The National Railway Museum has a very odd-looking device buried in its collections: a working model of a gyrostatic monorail car invented by Louis Brennan in 1907. I don’t feel able or qualified to explain the physics of gyrostats here. Suffice to say, Brennan’s vehicle ran on a single rail, stabilized by ingeniously-designed spinning fly-wheels so that it stayed upright even when fully loaded. Ingenious inventions like the gyrocar were all the rage in Edwardian Britain. On my shelves at home is a copy […]

I’m just back from a conference in Dresden. The Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, home to the wonderful transparent man (and woman), hosted a conference looking at wax moulages. Moulages are based on casts taken directly from patients, which are then moulded in wax to present case studies of particular diseases, especially dermatological conditions. Each one has its own medical and cultural story to tell, at once a medical specimen, an individual’s history as a patient, and cultural artefact.   These examples are from […]

In a previous post, I shared with you my recent visit to the merchant seafarers war memorial in London. I’d gone to find the plaque commemorating the Atlantic Conveyor, a Cunard container ship requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence during the 1982 Falklands war for transport duty, and sunk following an Argentine missile attack. Soon after the war, Cunard commissioned the original builders of the Atlantic Conveyor, Swan Hunter, to construct her replacement. Taking the same name, the second ship was being […]

The other day I had a look round Trinity Square Gardens, a little park in front of the headquarters of Trinity House. Surrounded by the bustle of tourists visiting the nearby Tower of London, the garden is by contrast a very sombre space. It contains the Tower Hill Memorial to sailors in Britain’s merchant navy who have lost their lives at war. Burnished bronze plaques extend along the walls of the memorial containing the names of the dead. The World War […]

I mentioned before how much I love Blythe House, our storehouse in west London. This is where we keep the things that aren’t on display in the Science Museum or out at Wroughton. There’s some great stuff tucked away. For instance, these model buoys have always caught me eye – a set designed to teach people what the different colours and shapes mean. Philip Treacy, eat your heart out:  Nearby are these motor car spark plugs. Pink – and pretty as […]

This Saturday (24 October), we’re launching our Cosmic Collections website ‘mash-up’ competition. Just in case anyone else is as baffled as me, I asked our Lead Web Developer, Mia Ridge, a few questions about the competition. For the non-geeks out there, what’s a mash-up? A mashup is a website or application that combines separate data sources and/or visualisation tools into a single integrated interface. A really useful example is moveflat – you can search for housing by bus route or on a […]

Even though I’ve worked at the Science Museum for eight years, I still find the Flight Gallery stunning. It reminds me of my childhood bedroom ceiling, with one big difference: I had plastic kits hanging in dogfight freeze frames, the Flight Gallery has the real things!  One thing that really sticks out is this crab incrusted trophy with the plump-bottom angel (supposed to represent the Spirit of Flight kissing the waves). It’s the Schneider Trophy, which was offered from 1913 to […]

The bike I currently use has no suspension. This doesn’t bother me. I only use it on London streets and I’d rather my pedalling effort went into going forward than compressing a spring up and down. But it would have been a different matter on badly-made Victorian roads using a bike with solid rubber tyres… enter the ‘Whippet’ cycle, introduced in 1885: The sprung-framed Whippet was made by a firm called Linley & Biggs in their factory at 29 Clerkenwell Road, London. As […]

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