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Object loans

The Science Museum Group cares for an astonishingly diverse and internationally significant collection of 7.3 million items from science, technology, engineering, medicine, transport and media.

We are committed to providing greater public access to our collection through our work with organisations in the UK and internationally. We loan thousands of objects, photographs and archive materials to cultural institutions across the world, enabling many people to access these unique collections.

Information about object loans during 2019-24.

Recent loans

Between April 2020 and March 2021, we loaned 2,143 items from the Science Museum Group Collection to 155 UK cultural institutions (many on long-term loan), with a further 103 objects loaned to 12 international venues.

The Sokol spacesuit worn my British ESA astronaut Tim Peake during the Principia mission to the International Space Station and back in 2015/16, is on long-term loan to the National Space Centre, Leicester, where it’s on display as part of an exhibit charting an astronaut’s journey.

Tim Peake's space suit

The Great Northern Railway locomotive, GRN 4-4-2 No. 251, made in 1902, was loaned to a new museum in the town where it was built, the Danum Gallery, Library and Museum, Doncaster.

A set of 12 rubber and steel measuring rings for Clinocap diaphragms, made for Dr Marie Stopes in 1934 were loaned to the British Library, London, for the exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights.

A 1:8 scale model of the ‘Firefly’ class locomotive, 1838, previously exhibited in the Science Museum’s The Art of Innovation Exhibition was loaned to the Tate Britain, London, for the exhibition Turner’s Modern World.

A 1:8 scale model of the ‘Firefly’ class locomotive, 1838

An Ottewill folding box camera, 1853, and a Triptypch of The Three Liddell Sisters, 1858-1860, were also loaned to the Victoria & Albert Museum for display in their blockbuster exhibition, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser.

Meanwhile, on loan at the Fundazione Prada in Milan, Italy, is a modern “Vivex” colour print made around the 1930s from what is believed to be the first set of tri-colour separation negatives made: those of James Clerk Maxwell of 1861.

In 2020/21 we also lent items to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Penlee House Gallery, Leeds University Library Galleries, Wakefield Country Council.

Organising an object loan

If you would like to borrow items from our collection, please ensure you can meet the conditions listed below and send a loan request letter which contains the reason for the request, the venue and approximate dates. Please list the requested object details and their object numbers.

Loan request letters may be sent to Group.Registration@sciencemuseum.ac.uk or via post to the relevant museum (addressed to Registration).

We require at least six months’ notice for loan requests within the UK and nine months’ notice for international loans.

Information about object loans during 2019–2024.

Initial conditions

Before a loan request can be received, please ensure that you can meet the following conditions;

Object loans during 2019–2024

In order to bring more of our incredible collection to local and global audiences, we have embarked on a once-in-a-generation project to transform how we care for and share our collection with the world.

Construction begun in February 2019 of a collection management facility at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire, which will provide stable conditions for the long-term management and care of the collection, enhancing our ability to lend items and increasing public access to the collection.

Over 300,000 items held at Blythe House in London are in the process of being moved into a new building at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire. As part of our work, these historic items are being photographed and published online for the first time, creating one of the most extensive online scientific collections in the world.

The first of these objects began arriving at the new facility in June 2021, and the new building will open regularly for public tours, school and research visits from 2024.

Between April 2019 and 2024 while this ambitious project is underway, we will be unable to lend any objects currently stored at Blythe House or the National Collections Centre unless the loan has already been agreed. We will also be unable to provide access for researchers to these objects during this time.

Requests for loans will open again in 2024.

Thousands of items on existing long-term loans, touring exhibitions and loans from the Science Museum’s Library and Archive collections (including photographs) will be unaffected.

At Locomotion in County Durham and the National Railway Museum in York, new loan activity will be temporarily paused between January 2022 and December 2023 to enable colleagues to deliver the Vision 2025 masterplan. This will not affect existing loan agreements, those currently in discussion, or proposals received before 31 January 2022.

Requests for rail vehicles to attend heritage galas will require at least six months’ notice. Plans for Flying Scotsman in 2022 and the centenary year celebrations in 2023 will be unaffected.

All objects held at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, National Science and Media Museum in Bradford will remain available for loan during this time. We can advise on a case-by-case basis about the location and availability of objects.

If you have questions about a loan request, please contact Group.Registration@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.