The Science Museum presents the world of science with interactive exhibits and important artefacts dating from around 1700 to the present day. The collection includes exhibits that relate to the fields of medicine, technology and the Industrial Revolution.
Compared to science museums elsewhere, London’s Science Museum seems more serious with excellent displays that include some of the world’s most important scientific artefacts, whereas many science museums seem more like childcare centres with interactive exhibits with lots of buttons for children to press. Although the Science Museum has more visitors on school trips than any other museum in the United Kingdom and does have some exhibits intended primarily for children, it is still very much a science museum for grown-ups.
What to see at the Science Museum
The Science Museum has a large collection with over 300,000 artefacts including documentation of the world’s first typewriter, a working example of Charles Babbage’s difference engine, the first jet engine, Stephenson’s Rocket (which was built for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the first railway to rely exclusively on steam power) and Puffing Billy (the world’s oldest surviving steam locomotive).
Exhibition spaces on Level -1 (the basement level) include The Garden, which is designed for young children, and the Secret Life of the Home, which traces the evolution of household objects showing how far we have come since the horse-drawn vacuum cleaner.
Level 0 (which has the museum shop, information and ticket booths) is the first part of the museum that visitors see and it features many of the museum’s most iconic artefacts. Galleries on Level 0 include Making the Modern World, Energy Hall, Pattern Pod, Tomorrow’s World, Legend of Apollo and an IMAX cinema.
The Making the Modern World gallery is one of the museum’s highlights chronicling 250 years of progress in science and technology. This gallery is home to some of the museum’s most important artefacts including Stephenson’s Rocket, an Apollo spacecraft, Watson and Crick’s model of the double helix and the first Apple computer.Energy Hall has an excellent collection of steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution including Old Bess, the world’s oldest surviving James Watt beam engine, built in 1777 and operating up till 1848. The Power gallery in the East Hall also features a recreation of the garret workshop from James Watt’s home.
The Exploring Space gallery shows the history and benefits of space exploration. It features a full-size replica of Eagle, the lunar lander that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used in their 1969 moon landing. This gallery also has exhibits showing how astronauts live in space plus full-size replicas of the Beagle 2 Mars lander and the Huygens module that landed on Titan.
Level 0 is also home to Pattern Pod, a space with interactive exhibits designed for children under eight years old; the Tomorrow’s World gallery, which showcases new inventions as well as an IMAX cinema.
Level 1 has the Challenge of Materials gallery, which has exhibits about various materials the and Who Am I gallery that has interactive exhibits that show how you would look like as you age.
Level 2 has galleries that include The Clockmakers’ Museum, Energy: Fuelling the Future, Journey Through Medicine, Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, Information Age and Atmosphere.
The Clockmakers’ Museum has over 1000 timepieces including watches, clocks and marine chronometers.
The Energy: Fuelling the Future gallery is aimed at children aged 7–14 that illustrates where energy comes from.
Journey through Medicine is a gallery that features artefacts collected by Henry Wellcome showing the history of medicine from prehistoric medical tools right up to modern medical instruments.
Mathematics: The Winton Gallery demonstrates the role that maths plays in our lives.
The Information Age gallery has exhibits that depict the networks that have transformed global communication including the cable, the telephone exchange, broadcast radio and television, mobile networks and the internet.The Atmosphere gallery has exhibits explaining climate science including displays about the Antarctic ice cores, stalagmites and weather forecasting and climate change.
Level 3 has galleries that include Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery, Fly Zone, Space Descent VR, Flight and Engineer Your Future.
The Flight gallery at the western end of level three is the main gallery on this level. It has several full-size aeroplanes and helicopters including Spitfire and Hurricane fighters and a cross-section of a Boeing 747.
Visiting the Science Museum
The Science Museum is part of the cluster of major museums in South Kensington. It is right next door to the Natural History Museum and across the road from the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum is only a five-minute walk from South Kensington tube station.
Admission to the museum is free but there is an admission charge for temporary exhibitions and also for the museum’s IMAX theatre. Visitors with a London Pass are able to see an IMAX show free of charge.
You could spend days in here if you have an interest in science although half a day will let you see most parts of the museum.