We use cookies on our website. Find out about our cookie policy here.Continue

Open seven days a week, 10.00 - 18.00. Entry is free*.

Museum history

Below is a timeline of key events in the museum's history. For further information about the museum's early years and development, download:

A Brief History of the Science Museum

1857 – South Kensington Museum (SKM) opens on site of what is now Victoria and Albert Museum. Premises also host The Patent Office Museum, a collection of contemporary and historical machinery.

1862 – Science collections move to separate buildings on Exhibition Road.

1883 – Contents of Patent Office Museum – including Puffing Billy and Stephenson’s Rocket – formally transferred to SKM.

1880s – Science library is established.

1893 – Science Collections director appointed.

1909 – SKM’s art collections renamed 'The Victoria and Albert Museum'. Science and Engineering Collections separated administratively and the name 'Science Museum' officially adopted.

1913 – Work begins on the East Block in 1913 but owing to First World War isn’t fully completed until 1928

1931 – 'Children's Gallery' opens in December 1931- indicating an organisational shift in placing needs of 'the ordinary visitor' ahead of those of specialists.

1949 – Buildings from 1862 demolished to construct ground floor of the Centre Block, in order to house Science Exhibition of the Festival of Britain 1951. Centre Block galleries  progressively open from top floor downwards between 1963 and 1969.

1986 – Original Launch Pad opens in 1986

1975 – National Railway Museum opens in York

1983 – National Museum of Photography (now the National Media Museum) opens in Bradford

1979 – Wroughton airfield, near Swindon, acquired both for storage and for collections of larger full-size objects (such as aeroplanes)

1984 –The phrase 'National Museum of Science and Industry’ is  adopted as corporate name of the entire institution  and management devolved from direct Civil Service control to administration by a Board of Trustees.

2000 – Wellcome Wing opened by HM The Queen