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Celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee

To celebrate HM The Queen’s platinum Jubilee, we’ll be looking back at her longstanding relationship with the Science Museum, spanning over 8 decades.
Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has shown a great appreciation for the transformative power of science and technology. HM The Queen has made at least ten official visits to the Science Museum, on multiple occasions opening new galleries and exhibitions which celebrated scientific and technological achievement.
Queen Mary and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret arriving at the Science Museum, London, 21st March 1938. Photograph from the Science Museum’s Z Archive.

Queen Elizabeth II’s association with the Science Museum began on 21 March 1938, when as an eleven-year-old princess, she toured the museum with sister Princess Margaret and grandmother Queen Mary. They visited our Children’s Gallery, which was the first of its kind in the world to explain scientific principles to children with what we now call interactive exhibits.

Photograph of Queen Mary and the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret visiting the museum, 21st March 1938. Z archive ref: Z111_47

The Coronation seen around the world

Queen Elizabeth II began her reign championing the use and development of science and technology by encouraging the broadcasting of her 1953 Coronation on television, creating the first global mass television spectacle.

One of ten photographs of the television coverage of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953 acquired by the Science Museum Group Collection © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Sales of television sets in the UK soared in anticipation of the live broadcast of the Coronation. Around 20 million people crowded round small screens in homes, cinemas and church halls to watch the royal event on 2 June 1953.

This pivotal moment for Queen Elizabeth II and our nation is featured in the museum’s Information Age gallery, where visitors can see the television cameras which filmed the Coronation, watch the Coronation and hear from people who experienced television for the first time because of this event.

Queen Elizabeth II visiting the Science Museum

In November 1966, Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, in the presence of the President of Pakistan, Muhammad Ayub Khan, opened the Engineers’ Day exhibition at the museum. Organised by the Ministry of Technology, the exhibition aimed to encourage more young people to become engineers

Opening of Engineer’s Day Exhibition:
Queen Elizabeth II & President of Pakistan © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited again in 1969 to open the Science Museum Library (the precursor to our Dana Research Centre and Library) and then again in June 1988 to open the East Hall Gallery.  Now known as the Energy Hall, this gallery traces the remarkable story of steam and how it shaped the world we live in today.

Opening of the East Hall Gallery, official opening and tour of galleries attended by HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. June 7th 1988 © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

Queen Elizabeth II returned in 2000 to open the museum’s Wellcome Wing, which focuses on contemporary science through temporary displays and exhibitions, and has hosted past exhibitions such as Mission to Mercury and Driverless: Who is in Control?, and current galleries such as Who am I?  and Engineer Your Future and as well as IMAX: The Ronson Theatre.

Photographs of the opening of the Science Museum Library, 27 Nov. 1969, by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.
In 2006 The Queen opened the museum’s Smith Centre, a home for debate, lectures and philanthropy.
Her Majesty the Queen opening the Science Museum’s “Smith Centre”. 24th October 2006 © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

HM The Queen joins the online conversation

Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the Science Museum in 2014 created headlines around the world as Her Majesty sent her first tweet.

The tweet officially opened the Information Age gallery and marked the first time a reigning British monarch had contributed to the social media channel.

HM The Queen opens the Information Age gallery with a Tweet © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.
Queen Elizabeth II’s latest visit to the Science Museum took place in March 2019, when The Queen made her first Instagram post, announced a major exhibition, Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security, and opened a new supporters’ centre.

In the Instagram post, The Queen noted that ‘it seems fitting to me that I publish this Instagram post at the Science Museum which has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation of inventors.’  The post featured correspondence from The Royal Archives between Charles Babbage and Queen Elizabeth II’s great-great-grandfather Prince Albert about the Difference Engine, now part of the Science Museum Group Collection and on display in ourMaking The Modern World  Gallery.

HM The Queen publishes her first Instagram post © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

As we celebrate Queen Elizabeth ll’s Platinum Jubilee, it is with great joy that we reflect on her prevailing and meaningful support of science and technology, as well as the special relationship that we at the Science Museum are privileged to have with HM The Queen.