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Revealing the Science Museum Group Collection

For over a century we have studied, displayed and cared for the nation’s scientific heritage. This incredible collection is astonishing, beautiful and world-renowned.

However, only a small proportion of the Science Museum Group collection is visible online or in our five museums. We have embarked on an ambitious project to transform public access to these historic items, enabling you to explore more of the collection than ever before.

For the first time the collection will be open to all, accessible through public tours of the collection’s new purpose-built home and freely available online through the world’s most extensive online collection of science, technology, engineering and medicine.

What’s happening now?

Our team at the Blythe House object store in west London are working hard to study, record, digitise, pack and transport over 300,000 objects to their new home at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire.

As part of our work, thousands of historic items are being photographed and published online for the first time, ready for you to explore.

We will also continue to share incredible stories from the collection through short films and long-form online content. New online tools (such as our Google Chrome extension) will help you discover items from across this vast collection.

Next steps

In February 2019 we began construction of a new building at the National Collections Centre to house the Science Museum Group Collection and provide stable conditions for its long-term preservation and care.

This new building is the size of 600 double decker buses (90m wide and almost 300m long) and features a spacious storage hall, conservation laboratories, research spaces and photography studios.

Once the new building is completed in 2020, we will begin the mammoth task of moving 300,000 objects into their new home.

From 2023, the building will welcome thousands of school children, researchers and members of the public, giving you unprecedented access to the national collection.

 

Drawing Chemistry

This year we are researching and sharing a series of stories about the intriguing and unexpected ways chemistry affects the world around us. We asked illustrator Jen Haugan to tell us more about the process of marrying art and science in her new illustrations.


Solving mysteries in the collection

Got an object you can’t identify? Baffled by old numbering systems? You need the Collections Information team. We went behind the scenes with the team on our blog.


Something in the Air

Scientist James Lovelock turned 100 today. To celebrate, we explore his groundbreaking scientific research through the objects and records we care for in the Lovelock archive Read more or watch this recent interview with Lovelock.


Playing with science

Our latest online story explores how science and society have shaped the humble children’s chemistry set through the revealing clues in five sets from the collection. Elemento chemistry game


Construction continues

It’s now almost two months since installation work began on the steel frame of the facility which will become home to the collection at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire.

You can watch the team’s incredible progress (and spot a few sheep) in this timelapse video.


50,000 photographs to explore

Over the past year our photography team has been busy capturing thousands of new images of the collection and publishing them online. We’ve now published more than 50,000 images online. To celebrate why not explore photographs of amulets, surgical instruments and typewriters, brighten up your browser tabs or read this blog post which goes behind the scenes with the photography team. Woman photographing a collection object We continue to digitise the collection on an unprecedented scale, publishing fresh curatorial insights and thousands of new images online each month for you to explore and enjoy.


The colourful chemistry of artificial dyes

Our curators recently began studying 200 items from the collection related to Scottish dye pioneer James Morton. These include historic dyes and fabrics, Morton’s correspondence with London department store Liberty and a 1913 advert by Burberry.

After seeing his faded fabrics in Liberty’s shop windows in the early 1900s, Morton decided to make dyes that would last longer, selling these new dyes to fashion houses such as Burberry.

Read more about why we owe our brightly coloured clothes to artificial dyes invented and accidentally discovered over the last 200 years at the Science Museum Objects & Stories page.


A new art commission

Today at the National Collections Centre we announced a major £70,000 Art Commission as Arts Minister Michael Ellis MP (pictured), invited guests and journalists (from local newspapers, TV, radio and The Guardian) visited to see construction of the new collection management facility.

Together with contemporary arts commissioners Foreground, we are seeking creative responses to our ambitious project to rehouse the Science Museum Group Collection in Wiltshire. Community participation is at the heart of the art commission, which aims to engage local communities with the National Collections Centre and the scale and significance of the Science Museum Group Collection.

Expressions of interest in the Art Commission can be submitted until 4 August 2019. The winning artist expected to start in late 2019, developing their part-time project to culminate in 2023 when the new facility opens.

You can read more about the event in this Twitter thread.


Construction underway

Construction begins on the collection management facility This week we began installing the steel frame of the building that will become home to over 300,000 items from the Science Museum Group Collection. Once construction of the new collection management facility finishes early next year, it will take a further two years to move all 300,000 objects from London into the new building. We’ll be sharing new images as construction work continues—keep an eye out for the grazing sheep!


Remembering Frances Micklethwait

Curator Hattie Lloyd recently came across an object in our stores that helped her discover the fascinating work of British chemist, Frances Micklethwait. Discover more in Hattie’s latest blog post.


Museum in a Tab

European Astrolabe We’ve just released Museum in a Tab so you can now see an incredible item from the Science Museum Group Collection every time you open a new tab in Google Chrome. Thousands of items from our astonishing collection can been seen in each newly opened tab, including thousands of photographs taken as part of this project. Download Museum in a Tab here or find out more in this blog post.


Looking at the collection

This month we went behind the scenes with our Inventory team for our latest blog post. The Inventory team study and record information about each objects in the store and on the blog they’ve shared a few of the most interesting items they have seen so far. The team also took part in an Object Lottery, sharing objects from shelf numbers suggested by Twitter users. You can see the objects the team picked here.


Construction begins!

This week we began construction of a new building at the National Collections Centre to house the Science Museum Group Collection and provide stable conditions for its long-term preservation and care. This new building is the size of 600 double decker buses (90m wide and almost 300m long) and features a spacious storage hall, conservation laboratories, research spaces and photography studios. Once construction ends in 2020 we’ll begin the huge task of moving 300,000 objects into their new home. From 2023 we will welcome thousands of school children, researchers and members of the public to see the collection in the new site, giving unprecedented access to the national collection.


100,000 objects

This month we reached a huge milestone. The team has now updated records for 100,000 objects from the collection and checked each item for potential hazards. We asked the team to share some of the hazards they look out for in a new blog post.


Stories From The Stores

The second series of Stories From The Stores features interesting items from the collection not usually on display.

Find out about Luke Howard and how he was the first person to name the clouds:


Capturing the collection

Over the last few months our photography team have been busy capturing thousands of new images of the collection and publishing them online. This the first time many of our objects—including microscopes, typewriters, shavers and slide rules— have been available online. L.C. Smith & Corona typewriter, model 8, 1926