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Welcome to the Autumn issue of the Science Museum Group Journal. This is an open issue that is especially strong in demonstrating the power of museum collections in research – the ‘material turn’ about which so much has been written. A case in point is the mini-collection Revealing Observatory Networks Through Object Stories in which Rebekah Higgitt approaches the study of observatories across the world by gathering nine ‘object biographies’ into three thematic papers in each of which three authors discuss objects illustrating the main theme. Archival objects are also studied here: Lucy Slater delves into the National Railway Museum’s civil defence archive to explore the railway’s response to nuclear threat, and Max Long analyses two data notebooks (A and B) in which pioneer natural history film-maker F Percy Smith recorded his craft. Graeme Gooday et al revisit the ‘Special Loan Collection’ of 1876, suggesting that it should be seen as an exercise in crowd-sourcing loans (mostly returned) rather than the basis of the permanent collections of the Science Museum. And Jo Gane adds a practice-based dimension to her research on the impact of experiments by a group of nineteenth-century Birmingham-based chemists on new photographic silver-plating techniques by reconstructing those techniques herself. The issue also includes obituaries of key contributors to science museum research and practice – Trevor Pinch and John Ward – and three book reviews.

We hope you enjoy reading it.