Science museum

A science museum, as its title says, is primarily a museum devoted to science. Older science museums tended to concentrate on static displays of objects related to natural history, paleontology, geology, etc. Modern trends in museology have broadened the range of subject matter and introduced many interactive exhibits. Many if not most modern science museums also put much weight on technology.


Historical background

"...The public museum as understood today is a collection of specimens and other objects of interest to the scholar, the man of science as well as the more casual visitor, arranged and displayed in accordance with the scientific method. In its original sense, the term "museum" meant a spot dedicated to the muses - "a place where man's mind could attain a mood of aloofness above everyday affairs." —Museum of Jurassic Technology, Introduction & Background, p.2

As early as the Renaissance, many aristocrats collected curiosities for display to their friends. Universities and particularly medical schools also maintained study collections of specimens for their students. Such collections were the predecessors of modern natural history museums.The Utrecht University Museum, among others, still displays an extensive collection of 18th-century animal and human "rarities" in its original setting.

Another line in the genealogy of science museums came during the Industrial Revolution, with great national exhibits intended to showcase the triumphs of both science and industry. For example, the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace (1851) eventually gave rise to London's Science Museum.

In the mid-twentieth century, Frank Oppenheimer pioneered interactive science exhibits at San Francisco's Exploratorium. The Exploratorium made public the details of their own exhibits in published "Cookbooks"that served as an inspiration to other museums.

Modern examples

Some of the preeminent science museums of the world are:

  • The Science Museum in London (universally known as just "The Science Museum"). Unlike many other institutions referred to as science museums, the Science Museum is primarily a historical museum and not a demonstration exhibit (although it does contain such science centre installations as well). It includes such famous items as many of the first steam engines, Stephenson's Rocket steam locomotive, the original models of DNA and heme, the first MRI machine, the first jet engine, and so forth. Entrance is free.

See also

External Links

Yahoo directory of science museums (

History of Zoological Museum in Copenhagen (

Museums as a Mirror of Society (


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