Human skeletons at the Wellcome Collection, London

Are science collections headed for extinction?

Geraldine Kendall, 20.07.2011
Don't miss the debate at Conference 2011 - book now for discount
The future of science collections is up for debate at the Museums Association conference in Brighton this October.

In a session chaired by Ian Blatchford, director of the National Museum of Science and Industry (NMSI), a panel of experts will look at whether science and technology museums have lost sight of their collections.

The panel will argue that while art galleries and history museums have flourished with impressive new displays bringing collections to a wider audience, science museums have morphed into science centres aimed almost exclusively at children.
London Transport Museum research fellow Oliver Green, who is speaking at the session, argues that such centres do not require the use or display of collections, or any consideration of the history of science.

Instead, he said, they use physical or computer-based interactives and theme displays around topical subjects such as climate change, leaving their actual collections in storage.

“[As this happens] curators become warehousemen," he said. "The logical outcome will be disposals, closures and the loss of our scientific and industrial heritage."

The session will consider alternative ways in which science museums can take a more intelligent, creative approach, learning from the success of the arts to develop better exhibitions and appeal to wider audiences.

“The future does not have to be dominated by boys' toys, space flight simulators and face-painting with Thomas the tank engine,” said Green.

Other speakers include Rowan Julie Brown, director of the National Mining Museum Scotland and Tim Boon, chief curator at NMSI.

The debate will take place on Monday 3 October at the Museums Association Conference and Exhibition in Brighton.

An early bird discount is available before 31 July.

For more information and to book your place, click here


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20.07.2011, 19:15
"Science museums have morphed into science centres aimed almost exclusively at children."

A very accurate an observation. Many science museums feel that they need to compete "Disney" style in order to command an audience.

The Museum of the History of Science @ Oxford has pioneered a way of presenting exhibitions that fully compliment and create enormous interest in their own collections- rather than creating a separate "theme park" to draw an audience.