Our free new exhibition, Our Lives in Data, explores how our connected lives can reveal patterns. Technology-based exhibitions are often filled with increasingly tiny gadgets, but in this new exhibition, we had to go big.
We’ve been working with Facebook in order to show Museum visitors a real server from a data centre. Data centres are the physical infrastructure of the internet: when you post a photo online or send an email, it’s stored in one of these machines in a data centre that could be anywhere in the world.
We were lucky enough to get one of these servers from Facebook’s data centre in Lulea, Sweden. It was fantastic to get such an amazing object for display at the Museum, but a bit of a challenge to move it into its new home in the exhibition.
Facebook had arranged to have the server shipped from Sweden to the Museum, but for us, that was just the beginning of the journey. The huge object is about the size of a refrigerator and weighs just over 800 kg, more than a fully grown cow.
The weight was immediately an issue. We had structural engineers examine our floors and the building design to make sure that having so much pressure on any part of the floor wouldn’t cause any unexpected damage.
With the all clear, we wheeled the server through the Museum to its display case and the next challenge: the display case is about two feet off the ground.
To get the server into position in the exhibition, we built a crane around it to hoist it up. It took four workers and three hours to hoist the machine those two feet up and ease it into the case.
They had to be extra careful too, as we only had about 5 millimetres of wiggle room. There were a few tense moments, but the server is now ready to be seen by curious Museum-goers.
But it’s not only the objects in the exhibition that proved to be tricky, and some of our cases are quite heavy too.
As a part of Our Lives in Data, we received a 3D printed model of a Tube station (Bond Street) from Transport for London. The model needed a huge protective case in order to fit around it. To lift the case, we used another kind of crane with suction cups to hoist the plastic structure into place.
Our Lives in Data opens at the Science Museum on 15 July 2016. Find out more at sciencemuseum.org.uk/data.