Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

‘What things mean in our daily lives’: a history of museum curating and visiting in the Science Museum's Children's Gallery from c.1929 to 1969


The Children's Gallery in the Science Museum in London opened in December 1931. Conceived partly as a response to the overwhelming number of children visiting the Museum and partly as a way in which to advance its educational uses, the Gallery proved to be an immediate success in terms of attendances. In the Gallery, children and adults found historical dioramas and models, all of which aimed at presenting visitors with the social, material and moral impacts of science and technology on society throughout history. Also, there were numerous working models with plenty of buttons to press, handles to turn and ropes to pull. Controversial visitor studies carried out in the 1950s revealed that the historical didacticism was more or less lost on the children who came to the Gallery. Consequently, the New Children's Gallery that opened in 1969 had to some extent abandoned the historical perspective in favour of combining instruction with pleasure in order to make the children feel that ‘science is a wonderful thing’.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Rob Semper , ‘Science centers at 40: middle-age maturity or mid-life crisis?’, Curator (2007) 50, pp. 147150

Peter J. Bowler , Science for All: The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009

Jonathan R. Topham , ‘A view from the Industrial Age’, Isis (2004) 95, pp. 431442

Melanie Keene , ‘“Every boy & girl a scientist”: instruments for children in interwar Britain’, Isis (2007) 98, pp. 266289

J.M.M. Alberti , ‘Objects and the museum’, Isis (2005) 96, pp. 559571

Michael Rossi , ‘Fabricating authenticity: modeling a whale at the American Museum of Natural History, 1906–1974’, Isis (2010) 101, pp. 338361

Jane Insley , ‘Little landscapes: dioramas in museum displays’, Endeavour (2008) 32, pp. 2731

Robert Silvery , ‘The intelligibility of broadcast talks’, Public Opinion Quarterly (1951) 15, pp. 299304

Joyce A.M. Brooks and Philip E. Vernon , ‘A study of children's interest and comprehension at a Science Museum’, British Journal of Psychology (1956) 47, pp. 175182

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 26 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 101 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.