2021 writing prize for early career scholars - deadline extended

Given the way the last year has disrupted everyone’s life and work, we have decided to extend the deadline of this year’s writing prize. The new deadline is 1 September 2021, giving early career academics and museum professionals time to submit and have a chance to win the £500 prize and a direct route to publication. The Journal is committed to encouraging young talent so do consider entering an article. You can find the details here

Issue 15

This May brings a sense of hope and normality, with the re-opening of our museums and other indoor cultural venues across the UK, and of course the reliable appearance of the Spring Journal issue. As Tim Boon reflects in his Editorial, it is inspiring to see how much research has been conducted and written about despite pandemic disruption.

If you’ve missed visiting exhibitions, Issue 15 includes a collection of papers associated with one of them – the Science Museum’s Science City 1550–1800: The Linbury Gallery. In this trio of papers Jane Desborough and Gloria Clifton discuss how the absence of women in the sources on early modern science hide their very real contribution. Rebekah Higgitt et al analyse the importance of the physical spaces where science was conducted in London, while David Bryden focuses on a single trade card, showing how a small ephemeral object can bring a relatively unknown inventor and tradesman to life.

In other papers researchers continue to reveal hidden stories that contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the past. Emily Rees Koerner, for example, discusses the life and work of Henrietta Vansittart, an extraordinary Victorian female engineer; while Kristin Hussey and Martha Biggins analyse a small collection of photographs and paintings held by the Royal College of Surgeons Museum that depict Dr Bhau Daji’s secret cure for leprosy, using it to discuss how Imperial power mediated the exchange of medical knowledge. Farrah Lawrence-Mackay analyses the language used to describe medical equipment – exploring the origins and use of the metaphor of ‘iron lungs’ to describe machines that were generally made of plywood. Sarah Stradal et al present research on the ways that the wounds of Christ were used in devotional practice in Medieval Europe, making good use of the online Journal to show and properly interrogate some beautiful images. And finally the Group’s Director Sir Ian Blatchford has somehow found the time to draw together findings from his ongoing biographical study of Lyon Playfair, the chemist, educator and politician who was instrumental in the creation of the Great Exhibition but who tends to be overshadowed by the more extravert Henry Cole.

Issue 15 is rounded off with a book review and an obituary of another Science Museum Director, the extraordinary Dame Margaret Weston, who did so much to expand our group of museums. We would like to thank the authors, reviewers and contributors who helped us bring Issue 15 to publication under difficult circumstances, and we hope you enjoy reading it!

Science Museum Group Library and Research Centres re-open

Libraries and Research Centres opened this month across our Group of museums. All centres have Covid (COVID-19) safety measures in place and provide booked slots for your visit, and the details for specific sites are given below. We are delighted to welcome researchers back safely and look forward to helping you access our amazing collections and archives. If you are not sure what we have, do check the catalogues for the Science Museum Library, the Railway Museum Library and the Science Museum Group archives.

The Dana Research Centre and Library at the Science Museum, London

Current opening times are Thursdays and Fridays from 11.00-17.00. All visitors must book a seat in advance by emailing to discuss individual library and archive needs and complete a booking form. Measures to minimise COVID-19 risks are still in place, so there are fewer seats and you must wear a face-covering at all times. Please see our webpage for more information.

Science and Industry Museum Research Centre, Manchester

The Research Centre is home to the Science and Industry Museum’s archive of original source material and reference books. Details of our opening times, COVID-19 related safety measures, and how to book a research appointment are on the Research Centre webpage.

Search Engine at the National Railway Museum, York

Search Engine is the National Railway Museum’s library and archive centre and holds vast collections of books, engineering drawings, images and artworks detailing the history, technological advances and impact of the railways. Please see our website for opening times and how to book a research slot.

Insight, at the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford

Insight, the collections and research centre at the National Science and Media Museum, holds world class object, archive and library collections focusing on sound and vision technologies. Please visit the website for information about how to access the centre.

Free public events - 'The Media of Mediumship: Encountering the Material Culture of Modern Occultism in Britain’s Science, Technology, and Magic Collections'

Curious about photographing fairies, telepathic radio or experiencing a séance? Produced in collaboration with the Science Museum Group and Senate House Library, this research project aims to transform understandings of the relationship between science, technology, and unorthodox forms of spiritual belief in modern Britain. Over the next few months the project will produce a knowledge exchange, events, and creative performance programme designed to showcase the hidden occultic histories of artefacts and collections held by the two institutions.

These activities are free and open to the public and will explore how seemingly secular technological and scientific instruments— cameras, radios, telegraphs, and other objects— have been used by spiritual practitioners and sceptics alike to probe the existence of an unseen world. A full programme is available on the website and will be regularly updated as the project develops.

Books and articles

Congratulations to Andrew Nahum (Keeper Emeritus, Science Museum) on the publication of his new book Paths of Fire: The Gun and the World It Made, published in May 2021 by Reaktion books.

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The highlight publication of Autumn 2018 was Being Modern: The cultural impact of science in the early twentieth century. Edited by the Science Museum Group’s own Research Keeper Robert Bud, along with co-editors Paul Greenhalgh, Frank James and Morag Shiach,and published by UCL Press, this major book was launched at the Science Museum in October 2018. It is the result of over three years of detailed collaborative research exploring the ways in which engagement with science has been seen as emblematic of modernity.Addressing the breadth of cultural forms in Britain and the western world from the architecture of Le Corbusier to working-class British science fiction, Being Modern paints a rich picture. Seventeen distinguished contributors from a range of fields including the cultural study of science and technology, art and architecture, English culture and literature examine the issues involved. You can purchase Being Modern here

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Recently published by Uniform Press is For Science, King & Country, edited by Roy MacLeod, Russell G Egdell and Elizabeth Bruton, the Science Museum’s Curator of Technology and Engineering. Killed in action at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles Campaign of 1915, aged just twenty-seven, Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley was widely regarded as the most promising British physicist of his generation. His pioneering measurements of X-ray spectra provided a firm basis for the concept of atomic number and re-cast the periodic table of the elements into its modern form. Had he survived, he seemed destined to win a Nobel Prize.

This book is a commemoration of Moseley’s life, work and legacy in which thirteen historians and scientists chart his experience of Manchester and Oxford; his military service; the reception of his work by the scientific community; and the impact of his work upon X-ray spectroscopy in physics, chemistry, and materials science. The book is available here.

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Invitation to contribute to the Journal

We invite scholars and museum professionals to submit original research, discussion or review papers relating to subjects that chime with the interests of the Science Museum Group and the wider science museum community for forthcoming issues of the Journal. Issue 16 (Spring 2021) has a deadline of 31 August 2021. Submission guidelines are provided on the ‘How to submit’ pages of the JournalIf you have general questions about article submission or if you would like to contribute an article, discussion or review piece please don’t hesitate to contact the editorial team at


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The Dana Research Centre and Library

The Dana Research Centre is located in the Wellcome Wolfson Building at the rear of the Science Museum, in South Kensington, London. Opened in 2016, the Dana Research Centre aims to promote the Science Museum as an important centre for scholarly research and it is home to the Museum’s Research & Public History Department, and to the Museum’s students and funded research projects. The Centre also provides a library with a selection of books and journals, a reading room and public access to the Science Museum’s electronic resources. Here the public can access and order items from the Museum’s extensive and rich library and archive collections stored at Wroughton (the Group’s large storage facility near Swindon). Do come and visit us to pick up a library card and browse the collection. More details, including the address can be found here. General questions about Library aspects may be directed to, and more general research programme enquiries to

Collaborative Doctoral Awards

Six projects within the Science Museums and Archives Consortium  (SMAC) start this year, including projects on the design mediation and consumption of Kenwood’s kitchen appliances, collecting the boundaries of art in the Science Museum, and, at the National Railway Museum, Between Worlds: Kenneth Cantlie and locomotive engineering in Africa, the Americas and Asia. 18 applications to the 2020 CDP round are now being assessed. We do recognize the challenges the pandemic presents to students, and their university and SMAC supervisors, and are working with other heritage partners to support them through this difficult time.

The Museum recently received AHRC Follow-on Funding for the project, Communicating Time and Culture. This builds on the findings of the original project Time, Culture and Identity, a collaboration between the Science Museum and the Palace Museum, China. It will fund a series of cultural events associated with the upcoming exhibition Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City and will allow us to engage different audience segments with the displays.

Please contact us at if you wish to develop a proposal for future deadlines. Further details about the doctoral awards is given on the Science Museum’s Research and Public History webpages here. 

Research Seminars

The Science Museum’s Research & Public History department continues to support a range of workshops, conference and seminars. Full details of all future seminars will be published here soon.


Keep up to date with all the latest research news, events and SMG Journal articles by following us on twitter: @SMGresearch