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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 […]

Gaetan Lee is organising tomorrow’s launch event for Cosmic Collections, our website competition. Find out a little more about what to expect. What should people expect at the event tomorrow? Well they should expect to get a chance to meet some great people and really get a chance to contribute – to a certain extent its going to be a user-generated event. By coming along they will be able to hear the story of eighteenth century astronomer Caroline Herschel from […]

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 […]

Ali Boyle is the Curator of Astronomy at the Science Museum. She oversaw Cosmos & Culture, one of our newest exhibitions so I asked her a few questions about putting the exhibition together and the Cosmic Collections website competition that we’re just about to launch… What’s the Cosmos & Culture exhibition about, and how did you select and organise the objects? Cosmos & Culture looks at how people all around the world have interacted with the skies throughout history. It uses the […]

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 […]

Having blogged about our tamiflu discussions (we medical curators have exciting lives), I thought might be a good idea to talk about the kind of things we have acquired in the last year or so. One of my favourites is our new smoking collection. Smoking, and tobacco, have a long and not always negative association with medicine. So we already have a perhaps surprising number of objects related to tobacco, from smoking paraphernalia to the rather fabulous Resuscitator for reviving “persons […]