We’ve decided this year to make sure we visit a London museum (or other equivalent destination) each month. This is not cheap, even when they are free, since getting 6 paying people to London on the train costs £60 even with a railcard. However, the odd non-charity sponsored post is paying for this, more or less, so last Wednesday, we took ourselves off to the Science Museum. We toyed with starting early but in the end decided to arrive in London about 11am (we were a bit delayed by someone pulling the communication cord 🙄 ) and stayed until after 7pm. Seemed to be about a perfect length of time for tired feet and concentration spans and fitted with cheap trains and getting home in time for a late snack tea and straight to bed.
We got to the Museum and headed straight for the basement to eat packed lunch which is really the only way to keep costs bearable even if it does feel like being in a school child mosh pit/holding pen. That lightened the baggage a good bit, so we headed off to the first hall, which looks at steam through the ages.
One of the themes that kept coming up through the day for us was the changing rate of technology improvements, the sizes and scale of not just things but timelines and the sheer effort that invention used to involve and which is now effort on a different scale, or of a different type.
They were bowled over by the time it took for steam power to evolve, the rate of change, the colossal limitations of needing to create and make machines on such a scale, ones which were designed to last forever and hardly changed in a century. It is such a contrast to the world they know, one which has gone from no internet, tapes and video at the beginning of Fran’s childhood, to dvds and digital download when she still has a third of her childhood left.
Maddy was fascinated and she and Max ended up spending nearly 2 hours in there as she wanted to know how every different steam engine worked. The rest of us had done space and moved on to the age of enlightenment by the time they caught us up! Space was great, prompting masses of questions and a strop from Fran when a school party moved to where we were and literally grabbed her hands out of one exhibit and pushed her aside. Most annoying 🙁 Poor ‘socialised’ children 😉 Never mind; such was the interest that we’ve had several days of watching Apollo 13, viewing u-tube footage of the Space Shuttle disaster and talking about gravity/lack of gravity and life in space. (Fran HOWLED at the end of Apollo 13 and Amelie surprised me by really noticing how the NASA commentary of the Shuttle explosion has not even a flicker of emotion in it as he remarks on there being ‘no downlink’.)
Moving on to the Industrial age was good, adored Rocket being there and they all fell completely in love with a tiny wooden working model of a tool machinery workshop. It’s incredibly hard to explain to a child (without feeling about a million years old) that when my grandfather was working and I was a child, his daily environment was really just quite like that, that he had cast iron lathes in his garage that were only a little more modern to look at and that even where their dad used to work was only a slight step up in terms of technology.
To be honest, I think the greatest marvel was that this tiny model had been made by hand 100 years ago, made to be a perfect representation of a workplace, still worked and wasn’t computer generated. I think we looked at it for 20 minutes.
I think I loved this bit of the museum the best in some ways (though we only did half of it) because there is still a palpable blending of science and history involved; science as part of the struggle to survive, rather than the enhancing of an already comfortable lifestyle. I suppose modern medicine and many other inventions still are, but it is less palpable in a world where the technology advances that are mostly clear to children are different generations of iPod.
We spent a bit of time in the plastics/recycling sections and the younger 3 girls were very pleased to find the Barbie Fran and I reported on a couple of years ago was still there.
I used to have the heart-y one and her dress is still in our dolls clothes box 😉 The farming floor (like the shipping floor) amuses me very much as a throw back to old style museums – I bet 30 years ago models of tractors and boats enthralled little kids, but I’m not so sure they do now. (Well, they enthralled Max, but he’s not really quite normal….)
I was slightly surprised by how much they were taken with the ‘materials’ hall as I’m not sure it would have grabbed me as a kid. I could say I think these things are always altered by having an interested adult with you (materials interests Max, I loved the Industrial Hall) but to be honest, I know that is not true as I know on the odd occasion we did museums when I was deeply un-receptive to my mum or grandad trying to educate me in their interests. Our lot were bizarrely fascinated by stress fractures and the like. 😆
In the Dan Dare inventions section, we all got very different things.
Good little toy seller that I am, I loved the early branding, a ‘range’ and the style of toys in that ‘middle’ set of years that came after traditional wooden but before trashy plastic and computer chip driven.
Maddy adored the cut away drawings so much that I bought her The Way Things Work for her birthday, Max enjoyed pointing out pieces of early machinery/computing that were still in his engineering works when he went to work there and Fran liked the human angle of a nuclear age.
Josie and Amelie liked moving on to the weird enormous hoop that fires your answers to energy questions into the air. My question was “If you were given a lump of energy, what would you do with it?” I couldn’t think of anything to say! Can you?
I also had a small nervous breakdown walking across the glass bottomed bridge that spans the central void of the museum and is 3 floors up. Yuck 😆
The maths gallery was great; I was made to take lots of pictures of things to make with Geomag! E.R.N.I.E was too much for them; they just could NOT comprehend needing something that big to do something so simple. Not surprising when they live in a world of online randomiser widgets really.
The last bit of the day was a good wander around the flight gallery; Fran is considering dumping gym for Air Cadets later in the year if things at our gym don’t improve so she wanted to really take some of it in. I had a quiet sit and got my head around there being 30 aeroplanes on the 3rd floor of a central London building 😆
We had a fabulous day. I’ve no idea if it is being home educated, brilliantly parented 😉 , being brilliant kids or just being wholly different to how I was anyway but I love how much our kids enjoy learning things. I know by Fran’s age i was so frustrated at having knowledge crammed willy-nilly into me that I switched off from everyone. It is a great regret to me now, because my amazing and intelligent grandfather died when I was 14. I could have learned so much from him, but I wouldn’t let him tell me. I love that we go to places like the Science Museum and the girls just lap it up, want to know more, come home interested and inspired and talkative about what they saw. It makes me really proud.
There was masses more to see, so we’ll do another day soon; we gave the history of medicine a miss, in case it upset any of us and didn’t get to the astronomy hall or full explore materials. I think we’ll be back very shortly.