We care for an astonishingly diverse and internationally significant collection of 7.3 million items from science, technology, engineering, medicine, transport and media.
Many of these are on our collection website, but it can be a struggle to see items from across the collection.
To help you explore more easily, we’ve created something new: the Random Object Generator.
Spending just a few minutes with it will reveal ordinary, surprising and wondrous items from the collection.
At the moment the Random Object Generator offers a fascinating glimpse of around 25,000 items from the collection (we are adding more each month), displaying a different item at random every 10 seconds.
Each item links to detailed information if you want to find out more and you can also set the Random Object Generator as a screensaver.
The Random Object Generator is the first in a series of tools we’ll publish over several years to help you more easily explore our collection.
We have been collecting objects, photographs and archive material for over 150 years and this review enables us to take a step back and examine the significance of what we have, using new knowledge and research by our curators.
The review will give us a better understanding of the collection as a whole, help us to identify objects that need conservation work or further research, enable us to set priorities for items to collect in the future and may even inspire new exhibition ideas.
Excitingly the review will enable us to share more objects and interesting stories with you.
Each year our curators identify, research and collect hundreds of significant objects – recently we acquired Tim Peake’s spacesuit (his spacecraft is already part of the collection), the studio equipment of one of the largest YouTube channels and the first paramedic bicycle in the world – to ensure the collection continues to inspire, engage and challenge audiences.
With 7.3 million items in our care, the review also gives us the opportunity to ensure our collection is sustainable and can be enjoyed by future generations. Like all major museums, we frequently add to and occasionally remove items from our collection, transferring some items to more suitable museums and removing items that are particularly hazardous or damaged.
We have also begun working on the most ambitious project the Science Museum Group has ever undertaken, which will transform how we care for, manage and improve public access to the collection.
In 2019 we will start work building a cutting-edge collections management facility at our National Collections Centre in Wiltshire.
By 2023 this building will be home to over 80% of the Science Museum Group collection, enabling us to increase public access to the collection (through guided tours, school and research visits) and provide stable conditions for the long-term management and care of the collection.
Our team are already busy preparing to move over 300,000 objects from our store in west London to the National Collections Centre.
The team are checking each object individually, updating records where needed, taking a photograph and will then carefully pack each object.
With over 300,000 objects to go through the process will take 5 years, but it gives us the opportunity to digitise this huge part of the collection to create one of the most extensive online scientific collections in the world.
These newly digitised items from the collection will also appear in the Random Object Generator.
New research and insights into the collection resulting from the review will also be published, joining thousands of existing items from collection which can already be seen online.
You can explore the Random Object Generator online at collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk/random.