by Geraldine Kendall (2011)
The future of science collections is up for debate at the Museums Association conference in Brighton this October.
In a session chaired by Ian Blatchford, director of the National Museum of Science and Industry (NMSI), a panel of experts will look at whether science and technology museums have lost sight of their collections.
The panel will argue that while art galleries and history museums have flourished with impressive new displays bringing collections to a wider audience, science museums have morphed into science centres aimed almost exclusively at children.
London Transport Museum research fellow Oliver Green, who is speaking at the session, argues that such centres do not require the use or display of collections, or any consideration of the history of science.
Instead, he said, they use physical or computer-based interactives and theme displays around topical subjects such as climate change, leaving their actual collections in storage.
“[As this happens] curators become warehousemen," he said. "The logical outcome will be disposals, closures and the loss of our scientific and industrial heritage."
The session will consider alternative ways in which science museums can take a more intelligent, creative approach, learning from the success of the arts to develop better exhibitions and appeal to wider audiences.
“The future does not have to be dominated by boys' toys, space flight simulators and face-painting with Thomas the tank engine,” said Green.
What does maNexus feel about this observation from tre UK? Is it the same here? Have science museums jumped on the Disney/theme park bandwagon in order to appeal to school groups and pander to the iPhone-app-genY-enduser, or is there still a serious 'grown up' place for them?