Dying Science Museum?

When I were a lad (a long time ago) I went to the science museum (with my mother? father? both? I forget…) and remember the wonderful gallery of models of steam engine valve gear, models of old engines (some original models by the actual engineers made as demos before the full-sized ones were built), many of which you could turn and watch the bits move. A few years back I started taking my son there, and to my surprise and delight I found that the same old models were still there, the same as ever (or at least much the same as my fading memories).

But yesterday we went to the science museum for the first time in maybe a year. Last time they were in the middle of refurbishing the “hall of power” which had these, and other wonderful exhibits about the age of steam. They’ve finished now, and my verdict is a definite thumbs down: out has gone good decent science stuff and in has come tat and junk.

The gallery of models seems to be gone; only a few scattered ones remain. In its place seems to be mostly an Ottakars bookshop – gadzooks, what a waste. High above is a large vertical ring, very large, very eye-catching, lined with led’s inside, and it pretends to fire little loops of light round the ring. Its probably art, but it doesn’t even pretend to have anything to do with science (much like just about everything in the Wellcome wing, which is a giant waste of space). There are still various steam engines about, and the giant red mill engine is still there, but the triple-cylinder marine engine is gone, I think.

Mind you, upstairs isn’t too bad – the “history of computing” is fun.

5 thoughts on “Dying Science Museum?”

  1. Fading memories?

    Most people have no memory or recollection of time spent in the womb. Most people have no memory or recollection of the first few years – even “conscious” years.

    And though most people claim to want to fill their life with memories for their old age, the reality is most people spend a lot of time trying to “get out of their heads” and/or forget unsavoury memories. There are one or two I cannot shake off no matter how hard I try, and there are many I cannot “actually” recall. I remember my first kiss like it were yesterday, I just cannot rememder her face or name. But I do remember where & when, though not with who. I guess 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

    But yes, it is nice to have memories – and to share them with one’s offspring. Though of course our childhood classroon will inevitably ‘feel’ smaller years later when we are twice, nay thrice the height and size, …

    … than we remember.



  2. “The gallery of models seems to be gone; only a few scattered ones remain.”

    Seems a very un-English thing to do for a museum. I wonder what they did with the materials no longer on display. Sell them off?


  3. There has been a dumbing down of museums for the past decade around the world. I was a bystander when a friend/colleague resigned from the board of a museum because of the drive to “edutainment” and the reduction of actual museum conservancy and taxonomy. And I met some paleontologists who wanted to do a display of a series of shells over a few million years from one species form to another by degrees. The “display designers” removed all but the terminal forms, and put a line between them…

    Dumbness and museums is an attempt to get people back, but all they do is remove the need for museums in the first place (which a cynic might think was the goal). The real solution is to educate folk, I think.

    [Edutainment and a problem getting the right people to have the authority to decide whats on show seems to be a big problem. Obviously I’d be happier if the majority wanted to see “real” stuff; but if the majority don’t want to see real stuff, I’d put up real stuff anyway and let those who just want entertainment go elsewhere -W]


  4. Here in Portland, the expensive ground-up remodel of OMSI left us nothing but a bunch of interactive puzzles and a laser show.


  5. You don’t mean they DESTROYED the Museum of Science and Technology in London do you?

    I have flown to London (admitedly from Germany, i.e. cheap flights, but still) to spend the day there.

    But, but, its GONE?! No!

    That’s it, Intelligent Design will eventually win. I’m off to go buy my club and loincloth now. Sniff.


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