Science museum seeks to inspire

Physics World
September 1999, page 11

In the age of the Internet what do museums have to offer? Sharon Ann Holgate discovered that London’s Science Museum is taking a new approach to presenting science to the public

Next summer the Science Museum in London is due to open its £48m Wellcome Wing. The new wing will be unlike anything seen in the museum before. An entire wall made of blue glass will complement exhibition floors suspended from a steel framework. This futuristic setting is part of a new philosophy, explains Alan Morton, acting head of the museum’s physical sciences and engineering group. “In the past we saw ourselves as teaching science”, he says, “but now we want to inspire people”.

On their way to the Wellcome Wing, which is being largely funded by money from the National Lottery and the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity, visitors will pass through a gallery that will include famous items of science apparatus in an almost reverential setting. Making the Modern World will contain more than 3000 famous historical artefacts, with 150 of them highlighted in the centre of the gallery. “We are almost inviting the sort of reflection on the objects that you would get in an art gallery,” says curator David Rooney. The setting will be stark, with white walls, a stone floor and objects on plinths or in showcases. Rooney says the 2700 square metres of exhibition space will relay “the cultural history of industrialization over the last 250 years”.