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