The Queen has been a consistent presence throughout all our lives. We offer our deep condolences to the Royal Family at this profound and sad moment. I feel deeply honoured to have had the privilege to welcome her to the Science Museum several times and to have witnessed her particular delight at meeting some of our younger visitors. Queen Elizabeth II was wise, warm and true.
Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II showed a great appreciation for the transformative power of science and technology. The Queen made at least ten official visits to the Science Museum and also visited the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, often opening new galleries and exhibitions which celebrated scientific and technological achievement. The railway carriage the Queen officially used between 1953 and 1976 is on display at the National Railway Museum in York.
Queen Elizabeth II encouraged broadcasting the 1953 Coronation on television, creating the first global mass television spectacle, later becoming the first monarch to send an email in 1976 and tweet in 2014.
Queen Elizabeth II’s relationship 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.
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.
In November 1966, Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, in the presence of the President of Pakistan, 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.
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.
Queen Elizabeth II returned in 2000 to open the museum’s Wellcome Wing, which focused on contemporary science through temporary displays and exhibitions, such as Mission to Mercury and Driverless: Who is in Control?, galleries such as Atmosphere and Engineer Your Future and the IMAX cinema.
In 2006 The Queen opened the museum’s Smith Centre, a home for debate, lectures and philanthropy.
Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the Science Museum in 2014 created headlines around the world as Her Majesty sent her first tweet.
Queen Elizabeth II’s final 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 our Making The Modern World Gallery.
Visitors can sign a book of condolence in the Science Museum (or contribute to the Royal Family’s digital book of condolence) and follow a museum trail to discover some of the most significant scientific, technological, engineering and medical achievements which took place during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.