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Issue 21

The Spring issue of the Science Museum Group Journal is out now. This issue features a special collection of four articles exploring some of the most significant scientific acquisitions made in recent decades, that of Professor Stephen Hawking’s Office at the Science Museum Group and the papers of Professor Hawking at the University of Cambridge. Here Tilly Blythe and Alison Boyle discuss the thinking behind acquiring the office as a single collection of more than a thousand objects; Hannah Redler-Hawes describes the experience of curating an international exhibition featuring some of the objects alongside the work of other celebrated physicists and contemporary artists; Juan-Andres Leon provides a detailed object biography of the famous blackboard in Hawking’s office with all its markings, jokes and signs of group discussion; and Katrina Dean and Susan Gordon discuss the mediation of the Hawking Archive acquired by Cambridge University Library. Together the papers explore key questions raised as we begin to organise, display and interpret the collection - how do we look behind the creation (by Hawking and others) of a publicly celebrated ‘personality’; how do we sensitively treat the impact of disability on Hawking’s life and work; how should we present the importance of collaboration and failure in the development of Hawking’s ideas, and how to make such complex theoretical science accessible to the public.

Also in the Issue ‘Objects of the Mind’ by Tim Snelson et al discusses a collaborative research project between Science Museum Group and academics from the Universities of East Anglia and Manchester. The project tapped into public interest in objects (from the Museums’ mental health and film collections) and in popular films (supplied by partners StudioCanal) to engage new audiences with research on the interactions of psychiatry and cinema. A range of events, activities and outputs are discussed, but the paper focuses particularly on three new films (which can be seen within the article) that (re)combine museum objects, feature film clips and expert interviews to tell new stories about and across the collections.

Exhibition and book reviews add to the issue, which is completed by a tribute to the late Jim Bennett, historian of science and Head of the Museum of Science in Oxford, who also contributed so much to the Science Museum and to this Journal as an advisor and friend.

Issue 22: a 10th birthday issue!

This year is the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Journal and we are planning a special birthday issue to celebrate. Reflective pieces will look at the value of research in museums and the role of the Journal as an Open Access space for sharing it. The Issue will be published slightly later in the year to allow for a special production.

Issue 23: Spring 2025

The next open issue of the Journal is planned for Spring 2025. We welcome contributions of research papers, discussion papers and object biographies that speak to the interests of of all science museums (not just our own). The editorial team is especially interested in new formats, and proposals that make the most of the Journal’s capacity to feature beautiful images, film, and other media. Do contact us if you’d like to discuss a possible submission: [email protected]


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Research news

New publication ‘Understanding Use’

Understanding Use: Objects in Museums of Science and Technology, the latest volume in the Open Access series produced by the Artefacts Consortium, has now been published online ( Edited by Tim Boon, Elizabeth Haines, Arnaud Dubois, and Klaus Staubermann, this marks the culmination of a long cycle of work that explores the meanings of museum objects from the point of view of their use.

Understanding Use proposes a way of thinking and of developing practice around four varieties of use of science and technology museum objects: first, the ways that machines, instruments, and equipment were used in their pre-museum “lives”; second, the ways in which research can re-create usage history of obsolete objects; third, the ways that museum staff have employed objects in their “museum lives” as members of collections. Last, there is also the possibility of reconceptualizing museum visitors as users of collections and displays. We suggest that thinking of museum objects in terms of use could constitute a coherent approach to museum work that enriches the wider purpose of science and technology museums.

New Science BSL signs

Late last year the National Collections Centre at the Science and Innovation Park in Wiltshire welcomed a team of British Sign Language (BSL) experts to delve into the Science Museum Group’s incredible collections. Close examination of the objects, and discussion with researchers and academics, helped inspire the creation of several new science-specific BSL signs. Take a look at the new blog ( and film ( to find out how colleagues across SMG partnered with The Scottish Sensory Centre and Royal Holloway University to create new BSL signs for words such as earthquake, seismograph and polarisers.

Staff news

Journal Editorial Assistant Richard Nicholls is leaving the Museum on Wednesday 15th May to take up an exciting new position a Waddesdon Manor. He has been with the Journal since its launch in March 2024 and we will miss him hugely. The post will be recruited as soon as possible but meanwhile please direct any enquiries about the Journal to the Editor at [email protected]


Keep up to date with all the latest research news, events and Science Museum Group Journal articles by following us on X/Twitter: @SMGresearch