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By David Rooney on

Voyages – new viewpoints on the maritime world

A new lease of life for our shipping models in Voyages

As you may have seen we’re currently in the process of updating many of our permanent galleries. In October last year we opened our new interactive gallery, Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery, followed in December by Mathematics: The Winton Gallery. We’re also currently reinventing our Medicine galleries which are due to open in 2019. With all these changes taking place, what happens to the objects once old galleries close in order to make way for new? David Rooney, Keeper of Technologies and Engineering, looks at the new lease of life some of our shipping models got following the closure of the Shipping Gallery in 2012 to make way for Information Age.


On 10 July 1963, journalists crowded into the third floor of the Science Museum’s newest building to see the opening of the Aeronautics Gallery, hot on the heels of the Sailing Ships Gallery on the floor below revealed five months previously.

After an earlier preview of the galleries, the Sunday Times exclaimed that ‘a war against boredom is being waged at the Science Museum … instead of row upon row of glass cases, planes are suspended in mock flight from the roof of a hangar … and ships and boats are displayed in the form of real ocean-going liners.’

The Aeronautics Gallery still exists today as Flight, having been updated in the 1990s. But our Sailing Ships Gallery closed in 2012 to make way for our critically acclaimed permanent display, Information Age.

The model ships and boats that captivated our 1960s visitors (and journalists) were moved to our off-site stores in specially constructed protective crates. These buffered the delicate artefacts from rapid changes in temperature and humidity which might have caused damage during the move. They’re now stable again but we leave the plastic covers in place until somebody asks to see any particular object.

One of the ship images displayed in Voyages © Anderson & Low.
One of the ship images displayed in Voyages © Anderson & Low.

When photographers Anderson & Low came to see the models last year, though, they had a different idea, and the results of their visits are now displayed in our exhibition, Voyages. Photographed through the protective covers, and with only the ambient light of the store rooms, the models have taken on remarkable and magical new forms.

These photographs are not just beautiful, they are revelatory. They show us very clearly that by looking differently, we see new things. We explore; we go on voyages of discovery. And these new viewpoints on the maritime world keep our collections alive, even after they have moved off display.

See the stunning images for yourself at Voyages, our free exhibition currently on display in Media Space (level 2).

Be inspired by these photographs to re-imagine an object within the Museum in your own way for the chance to win a £1000 photography course. Find out more here.