For over 150 years we have collected objects, photographs and archive material that tell stories of the impact of science, technology, engineering, medicine and media on our world.
Outside of the five museums in the Science Museum Group, we work closely with museums in the UK and beyond to maximise public access to the collection we hold.
Each year we loan thousands of items to institutions in the UK and around the world. We are also digitising the collection and publishing it online, making it available to anyone anywhere at any time.
What do we collect?
Curators across the Science Museum Group actively identify, research and collect hundreds of significant objects each year—through donations or purchases—for our internationally significant collection.
We are ambitious in the objects we acquire for the collection. Recent acquisitions include Tim Peake’s spacesuit, the studio equipment of one of the largest YouTube channels and the first paramedic bicycle in the world.
Each museum in the Group has a particular area of focus for collecting, which is detailed in Collecting Policy Statements.
Reviewing the collection
In summer 2018 we embarked on a review of the collection to provide a greater understanding of the items we care for, examining their significance in light of curatorial research.
New insights into the collection will be published online, with the review also identifying priorities for future collecting and programming in our five museums.
Our aim is that the Science Museum Group collection continues to engage and challenge audiences. With 7.3 million items now in our care, the review provides the opportunity to ensure the national collection is sustainable and can be enjoyed by future generations.
Like all major museums, we frequently add to and occasionally remove items from our collection. This review will enable us to focus on future collecting and may also identify objects that are no longer appropriate for the national collection.
We will look to transfer items to other museums and public collections if they are:
- Better suited to display or research by another public institution;
- A duplicate of an item we already hold in the collection.
Our aim is that transferred items remain in the public domain and we will give priority to accredited museums who wish to acquire items available for transfer.
In rare circumstances, if attempts to find an alternative public home via a transfer are unsuccessful, we may sell an item (reinvesting the proceeds in the collection) or remove an item from the collection, recycling the item whenever possible.
Although we have experience and expertise in caring for hazardous items, the review may also identify particularly hazardous or significantly damaged items that need to be removed from the collection.
THe TRANSFER PROCESS
We follow a rigorous process when deciding whether to transfer or remove an item from the collection.
The decision must be reviewed internally and then discussed by the Review Board and the Collections & Research Trustee Sub-committee (for items relating to the railways, opinion is also sought from the Science Museum Group Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board).
The final decision to transfer or remove an item from our collection is taken by the Science Museum Group’s Board of Trustees and our procedures are guided by the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics.
The following items have recently been transferred from the Science Museum Group collection to more suitable museums or public collections.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON TRANSFERS
If you would like more information or are interested in acquiring an object from the list please email us and include the object(s) number, a description of how you intend to use and care for the object(s) and information about the museum or organisation you represent.
When a transfer takes place, we gift the object(s) to the most suitable museum or public collection. Recipients will be asked to sign our transfer paperwork, with the legal change of ownership completed once the objects are collected. Recipients are responsible for the arrangement and cost of collection of the object(s) from a site specified by the Science Museum Group.