We aim to inspire visitors with award-winning exhibitions, iconic objects and stories of incredible scientific achievement.
The Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical advancement from across the globe.
Who we are
Below is a timeline of key events in our history. For further information about the museum’s early years and development, download A Brief History of the Science Museum (PDF).
1857—South Kensington Museum (SKM) opens on the site of what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. Premises also host The Patent Office Museum, a collection of contemporary and historical machinery.
1862—Science collections move to separate buildings on Exhibition Road.
1883—Contents of Patent Office Museum, including Puffing Billy and Stephenson’s Rocket, formally transferred to SKM.
1880s—Science library established.
1893—Science Collections director appointed.
1909—SKM’s art collections renamed ‘The Victoria and Albert Museum’. Science and Engineering Collections separated administratively and the name ‘Science Museum’ officially adopted.
1913—Work begins on the East Block in 1913 but, owing to the First World War, isn’t fully completed until 1928.
1931—‘Children’s Gallery’ opens in December 1931, indicating an organisational shift in placing needs of the ‘ordinary visitor’ ahead of those of specialists.
1949—Buildings from 1862 demolished to construct ground floor of the Centre Block, in order to house Science Exhibition of the Festival of Britain 1951. Centre Block galleries progressively open from top floor downwards between 1963 and 1969.
1986—Original Launch Pad opens.
1975—National Railway Museum opens in York.
1983—National Museum of Photography (now the National Science and Media Museum) opens in Bradford.
1979—Wroughton airfield, near Swindon, acquired both for storage and for collections of larger full-size objects (such as aeroplanes).
1984—The phrase ‘National Museum of Science and Industry’ adopted as corporate name of the entire institution. Management devolved from direct Civil Service control to administration by a Board of Trustees.
2000—Wellcome Wing opened by HM The Queen.
Professor Russell G Foster CBE FRS
Professor of Circadian Neuroscience and Director of the Sleep and Circadian Institute (SCNi), University of Oxford
Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE FRS
Professor of Experimental Physics; Master of Churchill College, Cambridge
Mrs Jane Atkinson Eur Ing
Operations Director, North, Cape Plc
The Rt Hon Lord Kitchin (David)
Justice, UK Supreme Court
Dr Lucie Green
Mullard Space Science Laboratory
Sir Paul Nurse (Deputy Chair)
Geneticist and Cell Biologist, The Francis Crick Institute
Professor Simon J Schaffer
Department of History & Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
Professor Molly Stevens
Faculty of Engineering, Department of Materials, Imperial College London
Dr Robert Parker Csci Cchem FRSC
Chief Executive Officer, Royal Society of Chemistry
We’re part of the Science Museum Group, along with the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Railway Museum in York and Locomotion in Shildon, Co Durham.
As the world’s leading group of science museums, we share our unparalleled collection—spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine—with over five million visitors each year.
Visit the Science Museum Group website to find out more.