by Kathryn Hadley
The Science Museum turns 100 today! Special events will be organised this weekend and centenary celebrations will continue over the coming 12 months to celebrate a century of science.
The history of the Science Museum dates back more than a century to the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations held in Hyde Park in 1851. The Great Exhibition ensured a large financial surplus, which Prince Albert, the patron of the Great Exhibition, decided should be used to found a number of educational establishments. The South Kensington Museum was founded as a result, in 1857, primarily as a museum of the industrial and decorative arts. It also included various science collections as well as a separate exhibition of machinery. In 1864, a collection of ship models and marine engines was formed. In 1876, a special exhibition was organised featuring scientific instruments on loan from various countries.
The museum was soon unable to accommodate its growing collection and, in 1899, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of a new range of buildings. The new buildings opened in 1909 and on June 26th, 1909, the museum was reorganised into two independent institutions, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum.
Soon after, work began to expand the Science Museum with the building of the East Block beginning in 1913. Work was interrupted, however, by the First World War. It was eventually inaugurated by King George V in 1928. A ‘Children’s Gallery’ was thereafter opened in 1931. The life of the Museum was further disrupted during the Second World War. The museum was closed and most of its collections were put into storage. It was transformed into a radio repair school and the library and theatre became centres for wartime research. It was not until 1950 that the Science Museum became a settled institution once more.
For further information, visit the Science Museum website www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
To read more about the history of science, visit our Science Focus page.