Science Museum at Wroughton
The unimposing entrance to the large site
|Location||Wroughton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, England|
|Science Museum Group|
The Science Museum originally took ownership of the 545-acre former RAF Wroughton airfield in 1979, to be used as a storage facility for the largest objects of the Science Museum. A collection of approximately 35,000 objects is currently stored in six of the hangars and a purpose-built store. These include the world's first hovercraft, MRI scanners, computers, (de-activated) nuclear missiles and much more. In 2007 the collection of the Science Museum Library and Archives was also relocated to new facilities at the site.
In 2016 the site started to be featured in The Grand Tour, a motoring entertainment show. The show's three ex 'Top Gear' hosts use some of the roads surrounding the museum buildings as a vehicle test track each week.
In 2018 the site was rebranded as the National Collections Centre to reflect the use of the facility by the Science Museum Group as its primary collections management facility.
2019 saw the start of construction for a new 26,000m2 purpose-built facility which will eventually house and provide access to over 400,000 objects from the collection.
Functions of the National Collections Centre
The primary focus of the National Collections Centre is to conserve and manage the collections of the Science Museum Group. Over 35,000 large objects are currently housed at the site in the former aircraft hangars.
The Science Museum Group, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum had previously used Blythe House in London as storage, but have to move out. The Science Museum Group will use £40m from the government to develop the National Collections Centre site and create a high-quality accessible facility for the management of the collection, in addition to storage, the building will contain conservation labs and research facilities.
Until completion of the new collections management facility in 2023 the object collections at the facility are not normally open to the public.
Some of the objects in the collection currently stored at the National Collections Centre:
- Douglas DC3 aircraft.
- Ford Edsel motor car.
- Boeing 247 aircraft.
- Handley Page Gugnunc biplane.
- Lockheed Constellation airliner.
- A double-decker bus
- A TV detector van
- The world’s first amphibious hovercraft
- Early 20th-century electric vehicles
- The Wood Press the last hot metal printing press in Fleet Street
Library and Archives
The Science Museum Library & Archives collections are part of the Science Museum in London. Its holdings include original scientific, technical and medical works from the last 500 years. The Library is free to use and open to the public but appointments to visit have to be booked in advance. It is open on Fridays 10.00-17.00.
The Science Museum Library was founded in 1883 as the Science Library of the South Kensington Museum. It was formed of collections from the South Kensington Educational Library and the library of the Museum of Practical Geology. In 1907 it moved to the Royal College of Science building. When the Science Museum gained its independence in 1909, the Science Library became its responsibility.
In 1992 the Library joined with Imperial College London to form the Imperial College & Science Museum Libraries. Due to the increasing demand for space in South Kensington, about 85% of the collections and all of the archives moved to a specially adapted library building at Wroughton, Swindon in 2007. The library in London closed in February 2014; all of its collections were moved to the Library in Wroughton
The Library collections
The printed collections include rare books and first editions, journals from the 16th to the 20th centuries, Trade Literature, exhibition catalogues, British patents from 1617–1992 as well as over 85,000 books focussing on the history and social aspects of science, technology and medicine
The named archive collections include old original archives of some of the most famous and influential individuals and companies in the fields of science, medicine, engineering and industry. These include personal papers, photographs, glass plate negatives, company records, technical drawings and other original manuscripts from famous figures and organisations such as the engineering drawings of Charles Babbage and Barnes Wallis as well as papers relating to Donald Campbell and Hooper's car-building firm.
The MS archives are smaller collections of well over two thousand items, ranging in size from single items such as letters and notebooks to small collections comprising a number of items, which provide snapshots of the lives of those who created them. The material provides a wide-ranging source of subject information across the science, design and technology disciplines, as well as insights into the day-to-day lives of individuals and families
Amongst the library and archives holdings are:
- Charles Babbage's notebooks, engineering plans, certificates, social diary and letters.
- Barnes Wallis’s plans for the bouncing bomb.
- Pearson PLC engineering papers and photographs.
- Walt Patterson nuclear collection.
- Humphry Davy's letters.
- George Parker Bidder's papers.
- The New Cyclopaedia, or, Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences. (Rees's Cyclopædia)
Other activities at the site
The National Collections centre is regularly used for research and development, films and television, storage for other culture sector partners and testing of equipment for new technology and energy projects.
In 2013 a 50MW solar farm was installed on-site.
- "Science Museum Swindon: Unofficial Museum Guide". aeroflight.co.uk. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
- Mark Brown (17 May 2019). "Science Museum plans 200 hectare site to show off lost treasures". The Guardian.
- "Science Museum seeks partners to display its Trident, Comet and Constellation". Pilot Magazine. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
- Wyatt, Nicholas (2010). Science for the Nation. Palgrave-Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-23009-5.
- "About Us : Access and registration". Sciencemuseum.org.uk. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
- "Dana Research Centre and Library". Sciencemuseum.org.uk. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
- "The subversive encyclopedia." Archived 17 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine by John Underwood in Science Museum Library & Archives Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2010.
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