Information Age

The first permanent museum gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies

The Science Museum's largest ever gallery, opened by Her Majesty the Queen

Dedicated to the history of modern information and communication technologies, the Information Age Gallery was the first of the Science Museum’s new masterplan projects and its largest ever gallery.

The ground-breaking, £15.6m space features over 800 unique objects from the Science Museum’s world-class collection and celebrates and explores the remarkable impact of communications technology and the stories around how we communicate. Opened by the Queen in 2014, the gallery was divided into ‘six networks that changed the world’, from the first transatlantic telegraph cable, to charting the birth of the internet and cellular technology. Objects include the first transatlantic telegraph cable that connected Europe and North America in 1858; the BBC’s first radio transmitter 2LO (from 1922); and the actual NeXTcube workstation computer used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in 1989.

"Creating those little moments in a vast, vast story is the only way you can design an exhibition space like this. ” ​
Julia Pitts, Exhibition Project Lead

“It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R." —HRH Queen Elizabeth II's first-ever tweet, sent from the opening of the Information Age Gallery

Our vision was to create a gallery that seamlessly integrated object, narrative, interpretation and design. From the outset, the project focussed on collaboration between curators, narrative experts and designers, allowing both content and architecture to develop holistically.

Storytelling drove the design of the space, with a focus on the human-led endeavours in communication. We sought to create a familiar environment for technologies and stories embedded in our everyday lives by highlighting the human impact of these technologies.

"Fundamentally, this is a gallery about incredible objects, people and stories. The format of the gallery plays a supporting role to these awe-inspiring exhibits. We hope visitors will enjoy experiencing the gallery through the space we have designed." — Nick Rolls, Creative Director at Universal Design Studio

In order to foreground the civic impact of information technology and to create a space that might encourage visitors to dwell, we based the organisation of the gallery around the spatial typology of the town square – an open public space in the heart of a town enclosed by buildings of different uses, often with a monument or fountain at its centre. At the centre of the ‘town square’ we placed the largest object in the gallery, the rugby Tuning Coil and encircled it with a raised epileptical walkway that intersects a series of ‘buildings’ that face into the centre of the gallery, that we called ‘story-boxes’.

Displaying a huge range of objects, from the domestic to the industrial, we combined dramatic spatial placements of ‘story-boxes’ with more intimate interpretation, always connecting the object to the core gallery themes and scientific processes. Some objects inherently have a ‘voice’ and can tell their own stories, but other more outwardly mundane or ubiquitous objects require augmentation and interpretation to speak. To bring these complex stories to life in a simple yet engaging way, we integrated animated displays, interactive screens, large-scale graphics, projections, interactive games and audio.

The configuration of the gallery space provided multiple ways for users to engage with the displays, calling on the senses and serving different audience types—from the tactile and sensory to physical interaction, as well as audio and text-based narration. Individuals were encouraged to find their own routes into the content, with the ability to skim the surface or delve deeper.

"We tried to make it a really physical experience to counter the intangibility and invisibility of information theory." — Jason Holley, Universal Design Studio