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Object loans

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.

We are committed to providing greater public access to our collection through our work with organisations in the UK and internationally. We loan thousands of objects, photographs and archive materials to cultural institutions across the world, enabling many people to access these unique collections.

Information about object loans during 2019–2022.

Recent loans

Between April 2017 and March 2018, we loaned 2,548 items to 166 UK cultural institutions (many on long-term loan) with 308 objects loaned to 25 international venues.

Rocket, one of the most famous locomotives in the world, is on loan to the Discovery Museum in Newcastle from 22 June to 9 September 2018 for the Great Exhibition of the North and then at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester from 22 September 2018 to 21 April 2019.

Rocket in the Making the Modern World gallery at the Science Museum

The Soyuz spacecraft that carried British ESA astronaut Tim Peake to the International Space Station and back, together with his Sokol spacesuit, are on loan to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh from 17 May to 4 August 2018 and then at Peterborough Cathedral from 11 August to 5 November 2018.

Soyuz capsule

We also currently have items on loan to the Being Brunel Museum in Bristol, the Design Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the National Museum of Nature and Science in Japan.

Organising an object loan

If you would like to borrow items from our collection, please ensure you can meet the conditions listed below and send a loan request letter which contains the reason for the request, the venue and approximate dates. Please list the requested object details and their object numbers.

Loan request letters may be sent to Group.Registration@sciencemuseum.ac.uk or via post to the relevant museum (addressed to Registration).

We require at least six months’ notice for loan requests within the UK and nine months’ notice for international loans.

Information about object loans during 2019–2022.

Initial conditions

Before a loan request can be received, please ensure that you can meet the following conditions;

For national loans to museums and non-commercial institutions that pass a security clearance check, you must have adequate commercial insurance for the total agreed minimum liability amount.

For international and commercial loans, you will need to ensure that you have adequate commercial insurance or adequate cover through a suitable National Indemnity Scheme for the items to be loaned.

For loans to other national museums, the Science Museum Group follows the ‘UK Government Indemnity Scheme Guidelines for Nationals’.

All borrowers must advise the Science Museum Group in advance of the proposed object(s) use and display methods to ensure that these adhere with our conservation policies.

Borrowers will be required to complete a UKRG Facilities Report, Security Supplement and (where applicable) a Display Case Supplement.

Borrowers must take responsibility for any costs associated with any mounting or framing of 2D works and bespoke mounts or stands for 2D or 3D objects. Borrowers are also responsible for any costs associated with producing display cases, or barriers for open display objects.

Representatives from the Science Museum Group may, at the borrowers cost, be required to carry out a site visit prior to the loan or to be present for the exhibition installation to allow us to check that the objects are displayed in line with the loan agreement.

Commercial and international borrowers are charged a loan administration fee. This is calculated as follows:

  • 1–3 object loans per venue: £700
  • 4–8 object loans per venue: £900
  • More than 8 objects per venue: fee provided by request

In addition all loans including loans to UK based non-commercial institutions (eg. museums, galleries, charities) will be charged for conservation time (minimum of three hours per object) at £30 per hour (VAT excluded).

All loans from the Science Museum Group must adhere to the security requirements as stated in the loan agreement, which include but are not limited to;

  • The cases to be used to display the object(s)
  • Physical barriers for any open display object(s)
  • Any physical invigilator / security presence
  • CCTV
  • Alarms
  • Police response times
  • Fire safety and equipment

All loan venues must be security cleared by the Arts Council England Security Team before the loan object(s) are released – we are unable to lend without their approval.

Borrowers will be charged for the pre-loan conservation of each object to be loaned. This charge includes the preliminary condition assessment(s) and production of the condition report(s) for the loan as well as any conservation required to enable the loan to go ahead.

All borrowers must ensure that any storage areas used meet our security and environmental requirements and display cases meet the conditions stipulated in the loan agreement.

Any required hazard assessments need to be paid for by the borrower in advance of the object(s) being agreed for loan.

Packing is usually undertaken by the transport agent. Should packing be undertaken by the Science Museum Group, a charge of £30 per hour (VAT excluded) will apply. Any courier charges will also be met by the borrower.

The borrower must arrange for a GIS compliant transport agent to undertake the loan transportation, consulting with the Science Museum Group beforehand. All related costs will be paid by the borrower directly to the transport agent.


Object loans during 2019–2022

In order to bring more of our world-leading collection to our global audiences, we have embarked on a once-in-a-generation project to transform how we care for and share our collection with the world.

We are building a new collections management facility at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire to provide stable conditions for the long-term management and care of 80% of the Science Museum Group collection, enhancing our ability to lend objects and increasing public access to objects not currently on display.

By 2023, more than 300,000 objects will have moved to this sector-leading facility from their current home at Blythe House in west London, which we share with the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. A further 20,000 large objects already stored at the National Collections Centre will also be given a new home in the facility.

Between April 2019 and December 2022, while our ambitious project is underway, we will be unable to lend any objects currently stored at Blythe House or the National Collections Centre unless the following conditions are met:

  • Requests from international venues for loans to commence during this period will be considered (in line with our published conditions) if received before 31 July 2018.
  • Requests from UK venues for loans during this period will be considered (in line with our published conditions) if received before 1 October 2018.

We will also be unable to provide access for researchers to items in our stores during this time.

Thousands of items on existing long-term loans, touring exhibitions and loans from the Science Museum’s Library and Archive collections (including photographs) will be unaffected. Loans to exhibitions between April 2019 and December 2022 already agreed will also be honoured.

Some objects held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, and all objects held at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, Locomotion in County Durham and the National Railway Museum in York will remain available for loan during this time. We can advise on a case-by-case basis about the location and availability of objects.

Moving this vast number of objects creates opportunities to increase public engagement, enabling more people to discover the richness of our collection. An unprecedented digitisation effort will create one of the most extensive online scientific collections in the world, with newly digitised items from our collection regularly released online.

If you have questions about a loan request, please contact Group.Registration@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.

To request access to the collection for research before April 2019, please contact scmobjectenquiries@ScienceMuseum.ac.uk.