Science Museum review
The first thing you'll see are some original engines by James Watt and Trevithick: big Victorian steam machines about twenty feet tall, beams as thick as tree trunks. It would be great if they got them going again. Imagine the noises they must have made! They probably sounded like a cross between car crash and a kettle; all whistles, clatter and bangs. I'm looking for a button to fire them up again but they've all been locked off and polished so you can see your face in them.
For most people the good stuff begins in the next room: Exploring Space. They've got a few rocket engines, a model of the Russian Sputnik, the Beagle that Britain sent to Mars, the Apollo 10 Command Module that splashed down in the sea, and a full-size copy of the lander that put man on the moon. It's standing in a dusty little moonscape covered in a flimsy gold foil that's not much thicker than a Kit Kat wrapper. It has so many funnels and struts coming out of it that you wonder how on earth it could fly. It's amazing they even got it off the launchpad, let alone land it on the moon.
After that comes the Making The Modern World gallery with its stack of British Minis on the back wall. Most of it is pretty dull (early versions of sewing machines, washing machines, typewriters and timepieces) but the vehicles are okay: they've got a few stagecoaches, steam trains, and those rickety old cars that were made out of levers, leather and wood. They look like they're driven off the set of Downton Abbey.
Information Age has a few interesting bits and pieces about satellites and communication equipment, but most of it is just old telephones (those rotary dial phones you had at home when you were a kid) plus a load of 'old' mobile phones that've probably got gathering dust in one of your cupboards.
This is the gallery where you'll start to feel very old indeed because half of the stuff on show is what you remember from your youth. When I was at school we learnt to program on the BBC Micro and played games on the Commodore 64 -- they're both on display here like they're ancient artefacts! They talk about floppy disks like they're wax tablets from Roman times. They've got an old copy of Windows that I remember buying in the nineties. You're entering a world where flip-phones and fax machines are museum pieces.
The early computers are worth a look. They've got everything from Charles Babbage's Difference Engine and a World War II Enigma, to those huge supercomputers from the 1960s that look like a filing cabinet full of tangled wires and Christmas lights.
My favourite floor is Flight. You won't believe this gallery when you first walk into it... you wander into a huge room three floors up and find bi-planes, jet planes and helicopters hanging from the ceiling. It begins with those canvas-winged peddle planes that had bicycle wheels on the bottom. Then there's a Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane and a Messerschmitt still dogfighting in the sky, followed by a business jet and cutaway cockpit that you can nose around inside.
There are racks and racks of dismantled airplane engines as well -- it's not dissimilar to a branch of Kwik Fit.
To sum it all up then... pretty much every guidebook labels this place as good for kids but I think it all depends on whether they're interested in space, and whether you're prepared to stump up some extra money to watch a 3D movie in the IMAX cinema. They'll probably enjoy looking at the airplanes, but a load of old phones and computers? Adults find that stuff interesting because it's a trip down memory lane for them, but it's different for kids. If it's a toss-up between the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum then I'd go for the latter.
I’ve been here before…
|Kid’s events in June|
|Kid’s events in July|
|Kid’s events in August|