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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 2019–2022.

Recent loans

Between April 2018 and March 2019, we loaned 2,585 items from the Science Museum Group Collection to 165 UK cultural institutions (many on long-term loan), with a further 168 objects loaned to 24 international venues.

Interior view of Soyuz TMA-19M descent module, S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation “Energia”, Russia, 2015
Looking in through the window of the Soyuz TMA-19M descent module.

The Soyuz spacecraft that carried British ESA astronaut Tim Peake to the International Space Station and back, together with his Sokol spacesuit, were loaned to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh (17 May – 4 August 2018), Peterborough Cathedral (11 August – 5 November 2018), National Museum Cardiff (15 November 2018 – 10 February 2019) and the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, Belfast (19 February – 12 May 2019) as part of a two-year UK tour.

Miniature orrery showing three planets including the Earth and Moon with wooden case, late 18th century to early 19th century.
Miniature orrery by Troughton, London, showing three planets including the Earth and Moon, late 18th to early 19th century.

An 18th-century miniature orrery was lent to the New York Historical Society Museum & Library for the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition, while an album of beautiful early cyanotypes was lent to New York Public Library for the exhibition Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins.

A toothbrush engraved with Napoleon’s coat of arms was lent to the Wellcome Collection for the exhibition Teeth, while a travelling microscope was lent to Manchester Central Library to commemorate 200 years since the birth of the microscope’s owner, James Joule.

Several items were loaned as part of the Great Exhibition of the North, including the Sokol spacesuit worn by astronaut Helen Sharman, which was displayed by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, and the famous locomotive Rocket, which was exhibited at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. Rocket can be seen at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester until 8 September 2019, its first visit to the city in over 180 years.

In 2018/19 we also lent items to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Avon Valley Railway, Manchester Central Library, Torquay Museum, Wellcome Collection and City Museum Simeonstift in Germany.

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 2019–2022.

Initial conditions

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

For national loans to museums and non-commercial institutions that pass a security clearance check, you must have adequate commercial insurance for the total agreed minimum liability amount.

For international and commercial loans, you will need to ensure that you have adequate commercial insurance or adequate cover through a suitable National Indemnity Scheme for the items to be loaned.

For loans to other national museums, the Science Museum Group follows the ‘UK Government Indemnity Scheme Guidelines for Nationals’.

All borrowers must advise the Science Museum Group in advance of the proposed object(s) use and display methods to ensure that these adhere with our conservation policies.

Borrowers will be required to complete a UKRG Facilities Report, Security Supplement and (where applicable) a Display Case Supplement.

Borrowers must take responsibility for any costs associated with any mounting or framing of 2D works and bespoke mounts or stands for 2D or 3D objects. Borrowers are also responsible for any costs associated with producing display cases, or barriers for open display objects.

Representatives from the Science Museum Group may, at the borrowers cost, be required to carry out a site visit prior to the loan or to be present for the exhibition installation to allow us to check that the objects are displayed in line with the loan agreement.

Commercial and international borrowers are charged a loan administration fee. This is calculated as follows:

  • 1–3 object loans per venue: £700
  • 4–8 object loans per venue: £900
  • More than 8 objects per venue: fee provided by request

In addition all loans including loans to UK based non-commercial institutions (eg. museums, galleries, charities) will be charged for conservation time (minimum of three hours per object) at £30 per hour (VAT excluded).

All loans from the Science Museum Group must adhere to the security requirements as stated in the loan agreement, which include but are not limited to;

  • The cases to be used to display the object(s)
  • Physical barriers for any open display object(s)
  • Any physical invigilator / security presence
  • CCTV
  • Alarms
  • Police response times
  • Fire safety and equipment

All loan venues must be security cleared by the Arts Council England Security Team before the loan object(s) are released – we are unable to lend without their approval.

Borrowers will be charged for the pre-loan conservation of each object to be loaned. This charge includes the preliminary condition assessment(s) and production of the condition report(s) for the loan as well as any conservation required to enable the loan to go ahead.

All borrowers must ensure that any storage areas used meet our security and environmental requirements and display cases meet the conditions stipulated in the loan agreement.

Any required hazard assessments need to be paid for by the borrower in advance of the object(s) being agreed for loan.

Packing is usually undertaken by the transport agent. Should packing be undertaken by the Science Museum Group, a charge of £30 per hour (VAT excluded) will apply. Any courier charges will also be met by the borrower.

The borrower must arrange for a GIS compliant transport agent to undertake the loan transportation, consulting with the Science Museum Group beforehand. All related costs will be paid by the borrower directly to the transport agent.

Object loans during 2019–2022

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 has begun on 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.

By the time this sector-leading facility opens for regular public tours, school and research visits in 2023, over 300,000 items will have moved into the new building from their current home at the Blythe House object store in west London. 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.

Between April 2019 and December 2022 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 January 2023.

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.

Between July 2019 and October 2020, while work on a major new exhibition gallery is underway, we will be unable to lend objects stored at the Science and Industry Museum unless a loan request has been formally agreed by 31 May 2019.

All objects held at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, Locomotion in County Durham and the National Railway Museum in York 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.