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Our collection

The Science Museum Group cares for an astonishingly diverse and internationally significant collection of 7.3 million items from science, technology, engineering, medicine, transport and media.

Together these objects tell the story of our world—from the rise of the Indus Valley civilisation over 3,000 years ago to the microchips powering our connected planet today.

The Science Museum Group has begun an ambitious project to transform how we care for and share our internationally significant collection with the world. This once-in-a-generation opportunity includes investing in a new collection management facility at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire.

About the collection

Our collection traces its origin back to the 1851 Great Exhibition. Among the 7.3 million items we now care for there are:

  • 140,000 medical items, including the long-term loan of the Wellcome Collection
  • 38,000 items relating to railway locomotives, technology and railway life
  • 26,000 scientific instruments
  • 17,000 items of photographic, cinematographic and televisual technology
  • 7,000 artworks

Standout items from our collection include: Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer; one of the first models used to represent atoms; Charles Babbage’s drawings and models; Dorothy Hodgkin’s model of penicillin; Helen Sharman’s spacesuit and Tim Peake’s spacecraft; Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth aircraft; famous locomotives from Stephenson’s Rocket and Sans Pareil to Mallard and Flying Scotsman and the world’s earliest surviving photographic negative.

A photograph detail of the BESM-6 Supercomputer in Russia
BESM-6 Supercomputer (2014-10/1)

ACCESS Online

You can discover over 250,000 objects, photographs and archive materials on our collection website.

Use the website to:

  • Search for a particular object, archive, individual or company;
  • Filter your results by date, category or location to narrow your results;
  • Find images of objects and archive material in our collection;
  • Be surprised with our Random Object Generator
  • Use our collection API

An animated gif of the random object generator

Our digitisation programme will continue to enhance existing collection information and add new items from the collection to the website.

To give feedback on our collections website, email us.

Library and archive online catalogues

The following resources are also available online:

ON DISPLAY

You can visit objects from the collection at each of our museums:

If you’re visiting to see a particular object, please email us at least 48 hours in advance of your arrival so that we can ensure it’s on display.

Visit by appointment

You can view objects and archive and library materials which are not on display by appointment.

Accessing the collection at Blythe House

The Science Museum Group has begun an ambitious project to transform how we care for and share our internationally significant collection with the world.

During the next five years, over 300,000 items currently held at Blythe House in London will be studied, photographed, packed and moved to the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire.

Due to this extensive programme of work there will no access to the Science Museum Group collection held at Blythe House from April 2019.

Between July 2018 and April 2019 we expect a high volume of requests from researchers to visit the collection held at Blythe House.

To book one of our available research visit places please request an appointment (weekdays only) well in advance by contacting scmobjectenquiries@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.

For those who wish to visit multiple times, we may need to limit the number of visits you can make to ensure fair access for all researchers.

Throughout this period the Science Museum’s Library and Archive, Search Engine at the National Railway Museum, Insight at the National Science and Media Museum and the Collections Centre at the Science and Industry Museum will remain accessible.

Access to information about items collected by the Science Museum can be found by contacting smlinfo@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.

Our ambitious project has created opportunities to review the items we hold, enhance our records and digitise a vast part of the collection for the public and researchers to explore on our collection website.

From 2023, the public, researchers and school groups will be able to access the Science Museum Group object collection at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire. This new facility will become the home for over 80% of our collection.

Details on how to arrange access will be published closer to the time.

Our collection research facilities at the Science and Industry Museum, National Science and Media Museum, and the National Railway Museum will continue to be accessible.

From the collection