Skip to content

Science Museum blog

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 […]

My daily commute to work is a nightmare. Seriously. Look at the view I have to put up with every morning: Sorry. That was smug of me. Unless I’m in a tearing hurry (I try not to be) I commute by fast clipper along the River Thames to work. It’s a glorious way to travel! Sometimes, big ships come up the river and park alongside HMS Belfast (a Second World War ship now part of the Imperial War Museum). This week […]

Sometimes a single object can express a lot about a contemporary issue, and where it fits into shifting ideas about health and personal responsibility. Take the PatientPak, launched in the UK in September 2008. The kit contains antimicrobial products claiming to kill 99.99% of hospital germs including Novovirus and E coli and the ‘superbug’ MRSA. Bought via the internet or in high street shops, the manufacturers advertise their product as an ‘ideal gift’ for people going into hospital. The issue […]

I was talking recently about battery-powered electric vehicles, but the big story right now is the hybrid car, which combines both a petrol engine and a battery-driven motor. They’re pretty complicated, but the HowStuffWorks tutorial here explains it clearly. The idea is that they’re more fuel-efficient than purely petrol cars, thereby reducing climate-changing emissions. But the concept has a long history – albeit with different aims in mind. In the early years of motoring, for instance, one big problem with […]

The 1980s race to create an affordable and reliable home computer was the subject of BBC4’s ‘Micro Men’ shown last night (and still on iPlayer). Chris Curry, co-founder of Acorn computers, and Sir Clive Sinclair were competitors but they were also close friends and they both did an enormous amount to bring the creativity of computing into British homes. Our computing collections represent the incredible diversity of British machines at this time, from familiar computers such as the Dragon 32, ZX81 and the […]

My colleague Peter Turvey, senior curator at our Wroughton site, brought to my attention the BMW MINI E, an electric version of the famous small car I talked about in an earlier post. It’s going to be trialled in south-west England this autumn and, if successful, may join the likes of the curiously-shaped G-Wiz electric car on our streets. Electric cars sound like the height of modernity, but in fact they have a far longer history than you might imagine. In […]

Working at a Museum doesn’t just mean thinking about the past, often it involves a bit of dabbling in futurology as well. We are lucky enough to have a very rich medical collection at the Science Museum, centred on objects collected by Henry Wellcome. However, his collection ends in 1936, when he died. So, in order to keep up to date, we are always thinking about the kind of objects that we need to acquire for the collection. With medical […]

All river traffic through London’s Thames Barrier was halted for ten hours last Sunday, as the gigantic flood-defence machine was given its annual test closure. I went along to Woolwich to watch the event. The barrier is a truly awesome sight, spanning half a kilometre across the River Thames with a series of ten moveable gates. The largest four gates (each with an opening the width of Tower Bridge) are giants: each weighs 3,700 tonnes. The barrier has protected London from […]