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Statement of public task

The Science Museum Group is one of the most important cultural institutions in the world, with outstanding collections and programmes that have an impact on millions, across the country and the world.

Its origins lie in the internationalism and optimism of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the landmark event which enabled the foundation of the South Kensington Museum in 1857. This was Britain’s first museum of the industrial and decorative arts, and the seed from which the present organisation developed.

Today, the Science Museum Group comprises the Science Museum in London, the National Railway Museum in York, Locomotion in Shildon, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, and the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. Together these museums hold one of the largest collections in the world, including a peerless collection of technical artefacts as well as engineering drawings, historical manuscripts, books, and one of the world’s greatest photography collections.

Our visitors share a strong instinctive understanding of the meaning of the term ‘science’ in the Group name. For them, the Museums in the Group showcase physics, biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine, mathematics and computing exploring both the history and contemporary practice of these disciplines, as methods for securing a deeper, systematic understanding of our world.

Our boldest concern is increasing science literacy throughout society. By helping people to learn in surprising and innovative ways, we will engender a deeper understanding of the contribution science makes to our lives and afford it the prestige it deserves.

Our mission:  To make sense of the science which shapes our lives, help create a scientifically literate society and inspire the next generation.

The Science Museum Group was established under the National Heritage Act 1983 with its own Board of Trustees. It has the status of a non-departmental public body, operating within the public sector but at arm’s length from its sponsor department, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The Group is also an exempt charity under the Second Schedule of the Charities Act 1993, with DCMS acting as its principal regulator for charity law purposes. Science Museum Group Enterprises Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Board of Trustees and exists to pursue commercial opportunities inter alia as source of revenue for the Group to support the Group in pursuing its public task.


Our public task is defined in accordance with the National Heritage Act 1983. In particular the Science Museum Group shall:

(a) care for, preserve and add to the objects in their collections,

(b) secure that the objects are exhibited to the public,

(c) secure that the objects are available to persons seeking to inspect them in connection with study or research,

(d) generally promote the public’s enjoyment and understanding of science and technology and of the development of those subjects, both by means of the Board’s collections and by such other means as they consider appropriate, and

(e ) provide education, instruction and advice, and carry out research,

Also encompassed within the public task are activities which will diversify and increase private and commercial funding opportunities,including but not limited to:

(f) the production and publication of books, films or other informative material relating to science and technology,

(g) the production of replicas or reproduction of objects relating to science and technology, or of souvenirs,

(h) the sale of informative material relating to science and technology, or of replicas or reproductions of objects relating to science and technology, or of souvenirs, and

(i) the provision of catering or car parking or other services or facilities for the public at any premises occupied or managed by the Board.

Our public task is also reflected within our STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES, to:

– Aspire to the highest international museum standards in the care and preservation of collections, scholarship, programming,    learning and advocacy for our subject areas,
– Strengthen our core narratives and deliver dynamic gallery displays,
– Implement clear audience strategies that focus on providing life-enhancing experiences
– Extend our reach nationally and internationally.

This statement of public task has been prepared in accordance with the Re-Use of Public Sector Information (Amendment) Regulations 2015. It is subject to regular review, and is due to be considered again in July 2019.

For further information regarding what documents whose supply is within the scope of public task, whether they are available for re-use and the terms on which they are available, as well as for details of how to make a request for re-use, please refer to our guidance on reuse.