Small museums awarded grants to engage communities in science - Museums Association

Small museums awarded grants to engage communities in science

Places of Science funding will support projects that spotlight local science stories
Science
The Places of Science scheme encourages museums to present science in new, creative ways that will be valued by local communities
The Places of Science scheme encourages museums to present science in new, creative ways that will be valued by local communities Royal Society

Thirty-six small museums across the UK have been awarded grants of up to £3,500 by the Royal Society in its Places of Science scheme to engage communities with their local science stories.

The scheme aims to celebrate projects that will evoke curiosity, interest and enthusiasm by exploring science in a creative way, while also contributing to the museum sector’s recovery. The projects awarded span topics like mental health, infectious diseases, engineering and palaeontology, and provide a hands-on way to explore and engage with science.

Jonathan Ashmore, chair of the Places of Science panel, and professor of biophysics at University College London, said: “The projects funded use a diverse range of creative activities and content to inspire their local communities.

“From using embroidery to teach us about the Quaker scientist John Dalton's work on meteorology, foraging walks to understand how the wool trade shaped the rich cultural history of Dartmoor, and using recycled tiles and crockery to celebrate a community’s local palaeontology heritage, these museums all welcome and embrace their science stories, past and present. 

“Many of this year’s awardees are also actively trying to make sure that their projects are accessible to everyone in their local communities. If your local museum has been given a Places of Science award, I would like to encourage you to look out for the displays, festivals and exhibitions that celebrate the science on your doorstep and that will inspire local generations to come.”

The 2022 awardees

Ballycastle Museum, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland

Marconi’s Moyle: Guglielmo Marconi’s radio wave experiments across the Sea of Moyle

Inspired by inventor Guglielmo Marconi’s experiments transmitting electromagnetic waves across the Sea of Moyle in 1898, Ballycastle Museum will deliver schools workshops exploring Marconi’s discoveries and their impact on modern life. The workshops will be co-facilitated by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Museum Services and W5 Interactive Discovery Centre (Belfast) and are aimed at primary school children at Key Stage 2 from across the Causeway Coast and Glens area. The programme will provide transport to bring classes to the workshop space overlooking Ballycastle Harbour for an interactive, out-of-classroom and immersive learning experience.

Erasmus Darwin House, Lichfield, England

Digitally discovering Erasmus Darwin

The project at Erasmus Darwin House aims to make the internationally important scientific and literary work of Erasmus Darwin FRS more generally known. Working with scientists, poets and local young people, the museum will co-create an informal and formal education programme on a digital platform to share the story of Erasmus Darwin. The participating young people will work with the museum to ensure that the sessions produced are made as accessible and as inclusive as possible so everyone can benefit from learning more about Erasmus Darwin.

Glenside Hospital Museum, Bristol, England

Be Well: the science behind your brain

Glenside Hospital Museum will bring together local neuroscientists, artists with lived experience of mental illness, curators, and designers to explore the scientific understanding of the brain and how this knowledge should be used to care for mental health. The museum, which served as Bristol’s purpose-built mental health hospital from 1861 to 1994, will make use of objects from its collection such as photographs, patient drawings and audio to create an immersive exhibition in the museum as well as resources, such as videos, that will be available online.

Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Hastings, England

The dinosaur on your doorstep

Inspired by Hastings Museum and Art Gallery’s collections and local dinosaur stories, the museum is commissioning an artist to work with local residents to produce a permanent public artwork that highlights Hastings’ dinosaur heritage. The artwork, to be created piece-by-piece over a series of family events, will be produced using recycled materials provided by the local community to both minimise the carbon footprint and encourage recycling. The project aims to engage with and inspire residents, particularly families with children. Partners include social housing provider Optivo, local charity Fresh Visions and members of Hastings Borough Council.

Head of Steam – Darlington Museum, Darlington, England

The everyday science of railways

Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum will partner with workshop provider Big Science UK to create and deliver new workshops to showcase the science behind the creation of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). The S&DR brought together pioneering engineers, businessmen and architects in the early 19th century and to build the 26 miles of the line science was needed at every stage. The workshops, to be delivered outside of the museum and at venues in the Northgate community of Darlington, will use themes such as bridges and structures, forces, and movement to demonstrate this, as well as the role of science in our everyday life.

Leighton House Museum, London, England

Exploring sound and creating music

Leighton House, former home of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton, have partnered with renowned composer and musician Maya Youssef to create a unique programme for children to explore music, sound and science. The programme is aimed at local children under 11 years old, with particular emphasis on those from families displaced by the Syrian war. Through six participatory workshops, the children will learn about how sounds are made, how they travel and how we measure them. They will also explore how instruments work and why different instruments make different sounds, with special focus on the qanun – the string instrument for which Maya is famed for playing.

Linlithgow Heritage Trust, Linlithgow, Scotland

Royal Burgh of Science: from Waldie to Scotty

In partnership with Herriot-Watt University, Linlithgow Museum will deliver a programme of workshops, talks and hands-on activities exploring the museum’s science collections. From historical hero chemist David Waldie (1813 – 1889) to a future Linlithgow resident, Montgomery Scott, or Scotty from Star Trek, participants will be taken on a journey from local historical discoveries through to the latest scientific developments being undertaken by researchers at the University.

Mansfield Museum, Mansfield, England

Mansfield stargazers

Mansfield Museum, in partnership with Sherwood Observatory, will invite local primary schools to the museum to explore their space-themed exhibition and related collection items. Following their visit, children will receive a stargazing pack which will allow them to continue their exploration of the night sky at home. The project will also invite the children to contribute to real-life scientific discovery by asking them to measure how dark their sky is by counting the number of stars that are visible within the constellation of Orion and sketch the phases of the Moon.

Watt Institution, Greenock, Scotland

The butterflies and minibeasts of Inverclyde

The butterfly and insect collections held at Watt Institution hold great scientific and historical interest but have been kept in storage for a number of years with no public access. Through this project, the museum aims to bring these collections to life and to local family audiences. Working with Inverclyde Ranger Service, they will deliver a series of talks and guided walks detailing the history of the collection and where specimens can be seen in the local environment. The collection will also be digitised using 3D scanning technology and uploaded to an online platform for all to access.

Museum of Dartmoor Life, Okehampton, England

Dye-ing on Dartmoor: Science and society from prehistoric to modern times

The Museum of Dartmoor Life will be investigating how their local ancestors would have used plants and minerals in the wool dyeing process. Through this investigation, the museum hopes to expand the interpretation of its collections and curate a travelling exhibition on this topic. Working with community partners, the museum will also host guided nature walks on Dartmoor and hands-on workshops for schools and adults on the scientific and practical process of dyeing.

Quaker Tapestry Museum, Kendal, England

Weather watching: John Dalton FRS, meteorology and Kendal

The Quaker Tapestry Museum, based in Kendal, brings to life the history of the Quakers through embroidered panels. Featured on one of these panels is the Cumbrian scientist John Dalton FRS who is best known for introducing the concept of atoms to chemistry and this project will focus on his life and legacy. Working with three local schools this project will explore Dalton’s work on meteorology, his connection to Kendal and how his work relates to issues of climate change today. Students will take part in workshops at the museum and work with a local textile artist to create an exhibition showcasing what they learn about Dalton and the science of weather.

Royal Anglian Regiment Museum, Duxford, England

Operation Infantry Science

The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum, based at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airfield, will develop and deliver two new interactive STEM workshops for families and school groups. One activity will be inspired by the museum’s collection of mines and mine detectors and focus on the science of explosives, as well as how to safely detect these in the field. The other activity will be about non-Newtonian substances in body armour and make use of the museum’s collections of protective clothing.

Shetland Museum, Lerwick, Scotland

Telling the story of 18th Century vaccine pioneer and Shetland crofter Johnny Notions

Shetland Museum and Archives will create a short film to tell the story of Johnny Notions, a local fisherman born in the 1740s who developed a vaccine for smallpox. The film will use artefacts and photographs from the collections as well as recreations and interviews with local children and museum staff to celebrate the life of Johnny Williamson, alias “Notions”. It will highlight an historical example of the successful use of vaccines to protect people from illness, particularly relevant to the community today as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. Once complete, the film will be screened at Shetland’s annual film festival, the museum itself and shared with heritage groups and school children, both online and in person.

Sir John Moore Foundation, Appleby Magna, England

Works like clockwork

The Sir John Moore Foundation will invite children from local primary schools to explore the innerworkings of 17th Century clockwork, and the role of clocks and timekeeping in history. Inspired by the museum’s own 5-foot-tall clock from 1697, students will get an opportunity to examine a working model of a clock, including how cogs work and what happens when a piece goes missing. Back at school, students will create their own version of the clock which will be showcased at celebration events where families will be invited to see their creations.

Almonry Heritage Centre, Evesham, England

The medieval herb garden project

The Almonry will create a functioning, historically accurate Monastic garden on the site of the museum’s original medieval garden. The garden will produce both kitchen and medicinal plants that would have been grown historically in Evesham. The herbs grown in the garden will be used alongside surgery kits in school workshops for Key Stage 2 and 3 students on the development of medicine across the period 800AD to1550AD. The Youturn youth centre in Evesham will be overseeing the propagation of the seedlings, working with local young people at risk. The garden will be tended by groups of local volunteers with support and training from Ryton Organic Gardens. Wallace House, an Evesham based community group, will help with the preparation of herbs for school workshops.

Clan Macpherson Museum, Newtonmore, Scotland

The Macpherson’s engineering wonders

The Clan Macpherson Museum charts the history of a clan and their impact on the Highlands and the world. This project focuses on two Macpherson contributions to science: the gas mask, designed by Cluny Macpherson during the mustard gas offensives of the First World War and the ‘Macpherson Strut’, a suspension system for cars which revolutionised the modern automotive industry. The museum will host three ‘Day at the Museum’ events where primary school students from the local area will be invited to meet with contemporary scientists and engineers to discuss these inventions, and their role in the modern world. The workshops will also invite students to design their own inventions that respond to the needs of the world today.

Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum, Uffculme, England

The power of steam

Britain was at the forefront of science and invention when mills and factories were being developed and expanded and Coldharbour Mill was no exception to this. The steam complex here displays the advancement of power generation from the waterwheel to steam power, and the collection of machinery here showcases the scientific principles behind this. Working with a team of volunteers and local students, the museum will co-create new interpretation panels for the complex, using illustrations, photographs and texts to help visitors discover the scientific basis of these machines, as well as their historical and social context.

Dacorum Heritage Trust, Berkhamsted, England

Stories of “The science behind…” 

Dacorum Heritage is unlike any other museum, as it currently operates from a museum store.  There is no dedicated open gallery space, so staff and volunteers must think far more creatively when sharing local history of their local communities. Through this project, Dacorum Heritage will create loan boxes themed around the titles of “The science behind…” which will highlight the stories of science from the local heritage. These will be aimed at primary and secondary school students. The museum will work closely and in consultation with science engagement experts and local teachers to develop these interactive learning resources and make them available across the borough.

Florence Nightingale Museum, London, England

From Scutari Hospital to NHS Nightingale

First recognised for her science and evidence-based approach to care at Scutari Hospital during the Crimean War in 1853, Florence Nightingale is today considered to be the founder of modern nursing. Such was her legacy, that when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, military field-style hospitals created for public use bore her name.  The Florence Nightingale Museum will explore the scientific developments in military field hospitals since the Crimean War by engaging with British military nurses, veteran patients and expert historians to create a series of short films. These will showcase how learning and techniques from the battlefield can affect all our lives, and how cutting-edge scientific innovation supports military personnel on the battlefield and at home.

Hackney Museum, London, England

Ice Age Hackney

Hackney Museum will create a temporary display that showcases the experiences of early humans in Ice Age London, particularly in the borough of Hackney. The display, to open in 2023, will also explore the environmental changes that have shaped the area’s landscape over the past 200,000 years and will consist of newly interpreted artefacts that were collected by Victorian collectors during the urbanisation of the time. The collections will also be used in workshops for local schools, creative activities for families, informative public talks and digital content as well as provide opportunities for visitors to handle original fossils.

Headstone Manor & Museum, Harrow, England

Harrow’s health heroes: stories from the lost Harrow Hospital

Harrow Hospital was founded in 1866, with a total of nine beds, managed by a staff nurse and voluntary helpers. Over 132 years, the hospital expanded, changed names, moved premises, and saw visitors from all over the world. Today it is a luxury block of flats and only a plaque remains.  Through their project, Headstone Manor and Museum will recruit and train a team of volunteers to assist with the research, interpretation and curation of objects and archives in their collection that relate to the lost Harrow Hospital. This collection includes annual report books, printer’s blocks, photographs and visitor books. A programme of public events will support the exhibition of these materials.

Lancaster City Museum, Lancaster, England

Lancaster Dino Fest

In celebration of Lancaster’s historic connections to Sir Richard Owen FRS, co-founder of the Natural History Museum and inventor of the term “Dinosauria”, Lancaster City Museum will be hosting Dino Fest. The family-friendly weekend will include a hands-on workshop of real and replica dinosaur fossils and skeletons, delivered by a team from the Dinosaur Isle Museum on the Isle of Wight as well as talks delivered from palaeontologists Dr Dean Lomax and Dr Jeremy Lockwood. Informational panels about the Lancaster born and raised Sir Richard will also be produced to raise awareness of this local hero.

Lewes Castle, Lewes, England

Exploring nature in Sussex

John Evelyn FRS, 17th Century writer and founding member of the Royal Society, was a resident of Lewes and entries from his diaries are some of the earliest recognising the long-term effects of climate on plant growth.  Inspired by this, as well as their own collection of 19th Century botanical illustrations mainly by female artists, Lewes Castle will work with a creative writer to produce a series of audio pieces that would serve as an audio guide to the Castle gardens. The museum will work with other conservation organisations in the area, which includes the South Downs National Park and the Living Coast Biosphere, to encourage visitors to record their own observations about weather and nature.

Milford House Museum, Armagh, Northern Ireland

The scientific marvels of Milford House

Built in the late 19th Century by Robert Garmany McCrum and fitted with modern fixtures, like an electric dishwasher, hydraulic lift and fountain in the dining room, Milford House was a wonder of its age. Since forgotten and lost, through this project, the historic house aims to reinstate and reinterpret these scientific features and offer visitors a glance into one of the most technologically advanced homes of the time. As well as restoring the features to their original representation, the museum will curate a digital showcase of videos to enable the project to reach a wider audience.

Moira Furnace Museum, Moira, England

Meandering around the museum

The Moira Furnace Museum will bring the museum to life by creating audio trials around the building using Talking Pens, which use microdots to play audio files through speakers. The audio trails will tell the stories of the people who lived and worked at the furnace throughout its 200-year history, as well as about the science behind the iron and lime-making that occurred here. Two trails will be created; one in greater detail for adults led by a local storyteller, and one aimed at children which will be led by a family of Moira Mice.

Museum of Global Communications / PK Porthcurno, Porthcurno, England

Planet PK Champions 

Through the Planet PK Champions project, PK Porthcurno aims to create a STEM club for children, young people and families from West Cornwall and beyond, particularly those concerned about our environment and our future. As a part of this, the museum will host regular public events, both in person and online, including wildlife surveys, beach cleans and science-based workshops. The Planet PK Champions club will become a resource for those seeking answers about climate change and the environment and will provide guidance to take positive, evidence-based action in everyday life.

Museum of Richmond, Richmond, England

Artificial silk: From Kew to the World

The Museum of Richmond will create a free temporary exhibition about the development of artificial silk at Kew, highlighting the role of local glassblower, Charles Frederick Topham, who in 1895 designed a box for spinning ‘viscose’ into a silk-like thread; an invention which transformed the textile industry. This case study will be used as a springboard for sharing other hidden stories about scientific invention in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, as well as for exploring some of the current uses of artificial silk and the issues surrounding its production. An accompanying programme of family workshops, community outreach and summer schools will be inspired by themes from the exhibition including fashion and sustainability.

Museum of Welsh Cricket, Cardiff, Wales

Exploring a sustainable and environmentally friendly cricket stadium

The Museum of Welsh Cricket will create online learning activities for primary and secondary school students relating to climate change, environmental science and sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyles. Using the location of the museum at Sophia Gardens Stadium, which is situated within a conservation area in Cardiff, as inspiration, students will study how the stadium has evolved over time and the current eco-challenges. Then, using materials developed by Friends of the Earth Cymru, they will develop possible solutions to these challenges and design the eco-friendly stadium of tomorrow.

North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre, Motherwell, Scotland

As Easy As Rocket Science

North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre will be hosting a national touring exhibition by Bespoke Scientific this summer called “Moon” which examines the human fascination with our nearest neighbour. In partnership with the Airdrie Astronomical Association, the project will develop a hands-on STEM workshop for schools which will include team building activities to learn about forces, trajectory, and gravity. Students will also investigate everyday objects which originated as result of space exploration. In addition, the museum will curate three space themed handling kits containing replica items, photographs and information and host a family event programme throughout the summer.

PWRR and Queen’s Museum, Dover, England

Treating the troops: Medicine and the infantry, 1800-1920

The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and Queen’s Regiment Museum (PWRR and Queen’s Museum) will explore warfare advances in medicine from the Napoleonic Wars to the end of the First World War. From inside Dover Castle, which was used as a dressing station in the Second World War, the museum will work with an education consultant to design a collection of school resources, loan boxes and a workshop for Key Stage 4 students studying GCSE History.

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby, England

Summer of STEAM

This summer, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum will host a series of science-based workshops designed to spark curiosity, promote discovery and inspire learning.  Rugby has a long and distinguished engineering heritage and the expertise and innovations created in local factories are embedded in our everyday lives, allowing us to fly in a jet plane, power a ship or start a car. Children will learn about this pioneering history whilst experimenting with robots, designing electrical circuits, creating animations and building free form sculptures from a wide range of materials.

Tarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack, Scotland

The science of skulls

Tarbat Discovery Centre will host a new exhibition, entitled “The science of skulls:  unlocking the secrets of the six-headed medieval burials from Portmahomack” in late 2022. The exhibition will showcase how the secrets of two medieval burials which included six human skulls were unlocked using an array of scientific techniques. The exhibition will explain the science, the results and the significance of the burials to medieval Scotland and Europe. The unfolding story records the lives, triumphs and trials of a Highland family living during the turbulent times of the 14th Century.

The Brunel Museum, London, England

Uniting art and science at Brunel’s Engine House

The Brunel Museum will pilot a range of arts meets science activities focussing on the Thames Tunnel built in 1843 by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel. It was the first of its kind to be constructed under a navigable river. Working alongside the STEM Ambassadors Hub London and Bizzie Bodies, this programme will explore the science behind the tunnel, including how it was built underground and its architectural features as well as Brunel’s wider engineering legacy. The activities in the programme will include a tour of the Museum, a drama workshop and exploration of the Thames Tunnel Archive, a set of illustrations, drawings and images prepared by Sir Marc.

The West House and Heath Robinson Museum Trust, Pinner, England

It’s all a bit Heath Robinson: A 150th birthday celebration of gadgets, games and general mayhem

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the “Gadget King” Heath Robinson’s birth, the Heath Robinson Museum is hosting a birthday “party” for families and children. In true Heath Robinson fashion art meets science at the event, with an exhibition of Heath Robinson’s best humorous work, a display of Meccano models, art and design activities alongside an array of zany engineering challenges. Joseph Herscher, YouTuber and inventor will also give a talk on the day and run a workshop for families where they will be challenged to build their own machine out of junk.

Valence House Museum, Dagenham, England

Science and domestic alchemy: Anne Henshaw’s role in the history of chemistry

Anne Henshaw was described during her lifetime as a “great alchemist” and her fascinating work, and that of her son, Thomas Henshaw, a founding member of the Royal Society, was uncovered during a recent research project at Valence House, their former home. Through this project, Valence House hopes to further understand Anne’s place within the world of alchemy and early chemistry and the museum will employ researchers to expand the knowledge of the Henshaw family and the science they explored within their home.  Their story will be told, with Anne brought to life as a costumed character, through family-friendly events and educational activities for schools. The museum will also produce a film.

Wanlockhead Museum Trust, Wanlockhead, Scotland

Mining for science

The Museum of Lead Mining will work with teachers from local primary and secondary schools to develop a curriculum-focussed learning programme to take place both in the classroom and the museum. The programme will showcase the role of science in the history and functioning of mining industry, from the geology and geochemistry of the surrounding landscape to the engineering principles underlying how the mine worked and the lead was processed. The project aims to raise awareness amongst school children and the wider community about the once important lead mining industry.

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