back to article The Information Age: A day out for grown-up children?

The Science Museum's new Information Age gallery opened in October to great fanfare. Most of that fanfare, however, was concerned with an elderly lady having sent a tweet, rather than the substance of the exhibition itself. Youtube Video So, with the Christmas holidays upon us, and a pressing need to find things to fill up …

  1. Harry the Bastard

    hmm, after visiting the science museum for the first time in ages i was depressed at how dumbed down, narrow and superficial it had become

    an institution that once had a fair crack at presenting humanity's development over millennia has turned into an entertainment venue seemingly aimed at an audience raised on reality tv drivel and with the attention span of a guppy

    i suppose it's the end result of having to drive visitor numbers to retain funding, but i just found it sad and depressing

  2. graeme leggett

    Location within museum

    Has this replaced the hall full of models of boats, or is it a reworking of another floor?

    I note in passing though most kids - such as my son - seem to gravitate to the interactive physics on the upper floor. Which ends up noisy and stressful for parents (IMHO). My mother on the other hand goes to the computer hall and looks at the sort of equipment she remembers when she younger (though after LEO)

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Location within museum

      I agree with both the pevious posters - dumbed down and stuff locked away.

      Locked away: when I visited the Science Museum earlier this summer I was looking forward to seeing the Difference Engine run (I was there at the wrong time on my last visit a lonh time back), but now its hermetically sealed into a glass case so that it can't be run even if the museum wanted to do so.

      Dumbed down: there was only a very scrappy notice about its purpose, some summary descriptions of prototype parts and drawings and absolutely no attempt at a coherent explanation of how it worked or what the Method of Differences is all about. Humpf!

      1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

        Re: Location within museum

        Yes, I was also horrified that there was absolutely no attempt to explain the method of differences (when I visited - at least 10 years ago). It's not exactly complicated, after all. I think I had reinvented it myself by the age of 12.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    It's been a very long time since I visited. At that time I (like most youngsters) was totally mesmerised by a huge beam engine that was actually running - very slowly.

    I suppose that's gone now, or wrapped in cotton wool :(

    1. graeme leggett

      About 2 years ago when I was there they had the beam engine gently steaming away. Made the atmosphere higher up in that end of the building a little thick.

      It seems to me that with several museums you have to visit at least 5 years apart or try to focus on bits you haven't done before or you will be getting a strong feeling of deja vu. I have vowed that next time I take my son to the Natural History museum that once we are in the front door (don't talk to me about the queuing) it'll be turn right (away from dinosaurs and the human body - I don't think either exhibit has changed in 20 years) and do the insects and geology.

      Interactive exhibits get shabby; unsurprisingly given the number of grubby mitts rubbed over them. And stale for the regular visitor because if you make them too deep and comprehensive the casual visitor will never get past the first part.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        I've taken my girls (3 & 6) to the natural history museum twice, we haven't even seen the dinosaurs yet. They love to spend their time with the the fossils and the geology section.

        Our favourite museum is still the Think Tank in Birmingham, some of the exhibits are a bit battered now, but most things are hands on and the outdoor science garden is fantastic. It's more geared for younger kids, but even teens seem to have fun. As for the adults, they can usually be found making the arch bridge in the garden, or looking at the pumping engines.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          I think my children preferred Enginuity (at Ironbridge) to the London Science Museum.

      2. Nigel Whitfield.

        The display cases shown in the article, and the touch screen information boards do a fairly good job, I think, of allowing most people to get something from exhibits, whether it's just a simple "This is X. It did Y in 1863" or more details.

        For instance, the galvanometer case can show a lot of information, explaining how it works to magnify the relected light, with diagrams and animations, and extra information at various points. The touch screen panels tended to have a couple of main screens of primary and secondary info, and then 3 or 4 pages of background.

        That may still not be quite enough background for everyone, but I think they are making a pretty good stab, by using the technology, to display things in a way that works for a broader range of people

  4. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The comments seem to suggest

    that the people who run science museums know very little about the audience of science museums. My daughter's (11) school trip popped in there last year and the three kids with any science bent found it utterly tedious* while the rest just had fun fighting over the activities.

    * I should add that all three of them could look at a tray of fossils with little notes and go 'WOW!' for about an hour before moving on to the next tray.

  5. Missing Semicolon

    You think that's bad, try the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

    My 10-year-old who loves "stuff" - engines, information, science, what-have-you - won't go because it's "boring".

    I have to agree. Since the refit, all of the technical stuff has gone, to be replaced by a BBC-producer's idea of what a science museum should be like. The ground floor is mostly LCD screens, and the first floor "experiments" part is usually full of broken stuff - as well as not having anything new added from before the refit. The narrative displays about Manchester Scientists (Dalton, etc) also seems to be permanently broken.

    The "Power Hall" usually does not run, so no big lumbering pieces of cast iron to marvel at.

    The only part that raises a smile is the reproduction Planet loco, that last time I was there would take you on a short trip around the old shunting yard lines.

    1. G7mzh

      Or the "Media Museum" in Bradford

      An excellent example of of style over content; very disappointing.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aaah the Science Museum. Visiting as a child it seemed like the Tardis, just never-ending on the inside. And always ending with real planes hanging from the ceiling, rather like my Airfix ones at home.

    Visited last year with daughters. Both parents agreed in retrospect that we should have foregone the previous day's Buckingham Palace etc. and just spent two whole days in the Science Museum.

    (As an aside, we've also done the Cité des Sciences in Paris, which is also fun for kids, but where you have to pay AND you get kicked out after 2 hours!).

    Another good one: the Transport Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      > Another good one: the Transport Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland.

      Apart from the 'wall of cars' that are extracted one at a time by an automated robot: it's fabulously impressive to look at, especially for small boys. But, and it's a big but, there is no info visible about any of the cars except for the extracted one which is taken to a sort of central podium and a video loop runs. This takes 15 minutes (half an hour?) and then another car is chosen. The order in which they are chosen is set by visitors choosing, juke box style.

      So if one particular car takes your eye, and you don't know what it is, you glance at the order in which they are due to be pulled and you realise that you'll have to wait FIVE HOURS or more to find out!

      Perhaps the (expensive) guidebook had more info but we skipped that!

      And, amusingly, when I was there someone had parked a vintage Harley and even more vintage Indian outside. The Indian was rarer than the exhibits inside!

  7. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    The Information Age exhibits...

    A lot of good stuff but with some annoyances over the way displayed, e.g. glass cases containing items displayed high up so impossible to see them clearly; and no original equipment powered up. Some trivial mistakes (but you expect better) e.g. an 807 described as a triode when it's a beam tetrode. And some myths perpetrated e.g. GUIs started with Xerox and were taken-up commercially by Apple - no mention of Three Rivers and the PERQ which pre-dated the Lisa by 3 years.

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: The Information Age exhibits...

      I've always lusted after a PERQ.

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