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By Will Stanley on

Picture it: Marking a milestone for our collection

This month a major Science Museum Group collection milestone has been reached: more than 150,000 objects now have an image attached in our online collection. Up from 5% in 2018, over a third of all objects in the collection are now visible online in a dramatic increase in accessibility. 

Thanks to the hard work of the One Collection team and colleagues across the five museums that make up the Science Museum Group, we are adding hundreds of new object photographs every month (including through work behind the scenes to update object records).

While the Science Museum Group greets millions of visitors every year to our sites across England, digitising the collection has opened the doors to our stores. Now anyone with access to the internet, anywhere in the world, can discover the rich variety of the collection and the innovations that helped shape the modern world.

The collection features 7.3 million items spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Standout objects include the record-breaking locomotive Flying Scotsman, Richard Arkwright’s textile machinery, Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer and the equipment used by John Logie Baird to transmit the first ever television pictures.

Experimental television receiver used by JL Baird in demonstration, made 1925-1926

While our collection captures the history of scientific developments and advancements, contemporary collecting is also a key part of our work. Throughout the pandemic our curators have been carefully and sensitively collecting the objects that will speak to the experience of COVID-19, from invitations to postponed weddings, to lateral flow testing kits and homemade face masks. We’ve also acquired a range of artworks as part of the project that speak to the emotional experience of living through a pandemic. This includes works by Grayson Perry, The Singh Twins, Angela Palmer and Roxana Halls.

‘NHS v Covid-19: Fighting on Two Fronts’ by the Singh Twins

By rapidly digitising our vast collection, we’re ensuring there is always more of the collection to see. We can see that our online collection is more popular than ever before, as two million visits have been made to the online collection since January 2021 and over five million since it launched in late 2016.

Newly photographed objects can be explored through our Never Been Seen digital tool, which shows objects from the collection that have not been seen online before. Each time you refresh this webpage, an object with zero views is shown, making you the first person to see these incredible items online, and giving you a unique insight into the breadth of our collection and all the incredible objects it contains, spanning centuries, cultures and scientific disciplines.

‘Alan Measles – God in the time of Covid-19’ by Grayson Perry

Audiences across the world can uncover hidden gems through our Random Object GeneratorMuseum in a Tab (our Google Chrome extension) and What the machine saw (a machine learning experiment).

Podcast listeners can uncover the surprising stories behind everyday items in their homes through our series, A Brief History of Stuff.

As over 300,000 objects continue to arrive at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire as part of the Science Museum Group’s ambitious collection move, our new collection management facility will open regularly to the public from 2024, enabling us to invite visitors in to discover the objects in person.