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40 things to see, do and discover at the Science and Industry Museum

On 15 September 2023, we celebrated 40 years since opening on a site of significant global importance in the heart of Manchester.

We enter our fifth decade while undergoing a multi-million-pound regeneration project. Critical repair works are making significant improvements to our buildings and revealing new spaces and perspectives for all visitors to enjoy, play and learn in. Although this means some of our galleries are temporarily closed, there is still plenty to do, see and discover.

Whether it's uncovering objects from our collection, testing your own ingenuity through hands-on experiments and activities, or exploring the ideas and people who change the world, discover 40 of the highlights and hidden gems that are available to explore everyday while we undergo our regeneration to create a world-class museum for the future.

See

See amazing objects from our world-class collection and experience inspiring shows and demonstrations.

1. Baby

In 1948, the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, nicknamed 'Baby', was the first computer to store and run a program from memory. The original Baby computer was built at the University of Manchester, while our life-sized replica was built in 1998, using vintage electronic components and with guidance from the original designers. The original no longer exists, having been taken apart for different elements to be used in later computers, so this is the closest people can get to an important piece of computing history, which took place right here in Manchester.

Replica of the 'Baby' or SSEM computer, built by the Computer Conservation Society in 1998 Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

2. Manchester's Rolls-Royce

The Rolls-Royce motor company started life in Manchester. It is the result of a remarkable partnership between Henry Royce, an expert engineer, and Charles Rolls, a motorcar pioneer. Built in Hulme, Manchester, in 1905, this is one of the earliest Rolls-Royce motorcars, and was Henry Royce's own vehicle. It is believed he used it to carry out his duties as a Captain in the Motor Volunteer Corps, before he sold it to an automobile enthusiast, Paris Singer, in 1906.

Early cream-coloured Rolls-Royce car Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

3. The Granada G

Once glowing red on the Manchester skyline, this iconic letter G was part of the signage on Granada TV's Quay Street building, not far from the museum. Coronation Street, first aired by the independent television channel in 1960, is now the world's longest-running soap opera.

4. Workers' wage tins (1850–1900)

Workers at Liverpool Road Station collected their hard-earned weekly wages in small tins, on display in the Revolution Manchester gallery.

5. Sticky tape dispenser

An ordinary sticky tape dispenser played an important role in a Nobel Prize-winning breakthrough in materials science. Used by a team led by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at the University of Manchester, the tape was pivotal in isolating graphene, the first single-layer material ever discovered.

6. Waters Acquity Qda mass spectrometer

Scientists and engineers at Waters created this mass spectrometer to help people across different industries analyse substances. The machine is so compact that scientists from Waters were able to carry it up Ben Nevis to raise money for charity.

7. Whitworth screw

Two hundred years ago, Manchester's ambitious engineers laid the foundations for a new age of mass production. Accurate measuring, precision tools and interchangeable parts helped build the machines that drove the Industrial Revolution. In 1840, Joseph Whitworth introduced a standard screw thread, making parts for machines interchangeable and mass production possible.

8. See an Explainer show

Join the museum's expert Explainers for action-packed shows that tells the story of how science met industry right here in Manchester, building our world and shaping our lives today. Celebrate the museum's 40th anniversary with a special birthday sing-a-long.

9. Water frame, Richard Arkwright, around 1775

Created by Richard Arkwright in the 1700s, this water-powered spinning machine started a textiles revolution and transformed the way people worked. It ran day and night in Arkwright's cotton mills. The moving rollers thinned out the cotton and the rotating spindles twisted it into yarn, meaning manufacturers could make more fabric more cheaply than ever before. Instead of spinning at home, people now worked long, repetitive and exhausting days in the mills looking after the machines.

Arkwright water frame Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

10. Child's clogs, around 1870

These tiny clogs were lent to children whose families couldn't afford to buy them. Cotton shortages or low demand for cloth meant work in Manchester's cotton mills was never guaranteed. If workers had to go without wages, many struggled to afford food, clothes and shelter.

A pair of tiny clogs on display in the textiles gallery Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

11. Ribbon loom with Jacquard head, T.F. Wilkinson Ltd, Coventry, 1900

At the top of the ribbon loom is a programming system. Cards with small, punched holes programmed the loom to weave different designs, making patterned cloth easier and cheaper to produce. The punch card system inspired the invention of the earliest computers.

12. Electric time recorder, 1930

This Gledhill-Brook Time Recorder was used at Mather and Platt's factory at Park Works, Newton Heath. It allowed the factory workers to mark when their shift started (clocking in) and ended (clocking out). The factory had at least 30 of these clocks to keep track of workers' shifts across its 17 bays. This particular time recorder was used by the new apprentices in the factory.

A 1930s electric time recorder Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

13. Trademark shippers' tickets, around 1880–1960

Manchester cotton merchants attached trademarks with colourful, detailed designs onto the cloths they sold. Textiles companies employed artists to design images they thought would appeal to their customers.

A selection of colourful shippers' tickets on display in a museum Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

14. Brass ear trumpet, Around 1850

Before hearing aids, people used ear trumpets to help them hear better. Thundering machines made the mill a deafening place to work. Without ear protection, many workers experienced hearing loss. 

15. Coins, 1799 and 1806

A collection of coins was hidden in an Ancoats mill during its construction. Now they are on display in our Textiles Gallery. People often concealed money with the belief it would bring luck or wealth. 

16. Dextralog

This pioneering loom monitoring system was invented in Lancashire in the early 1970s and it broke new ground in how we use computers to gather data and make decisions, giving manufacturers around the world the power to make better business decisions and increase productivity. Today, factories across the world use production monitoring systems descended from Dextralog's ideas.

17. Model cotton gin, W. Jamieson, Manchester, around 1860

The invention on the cotton gin in 1793 resulted in million more enslaved people being forced to grow cotton in the USA. The mechanisms made it easier to clean cotton on the plantations where it grew, speeding up the cotton process and increasing the demand for enslaved labour to plant and pick it.

18. Weavers Wanted! Textiles demonstration

Travel back in time to the working mills of 150 years ago in our textiles demonstrations. Experience the thundering sounds of the machinery and find out what life was like for thousands of mill workers.

A museum technician stood among historic textiles machinery Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Do

Get hands-on with experiments in our interactive gallery, test your creativity through craft and join in the conversation.

19. Spin and swirl

Spin the dome and make patterns swirl. What planet do you think this popular interactive looks like?

A young boy playing with a large orange ball. Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

20. Bicycle Bones

Sit on the chair and start pedaling to see a skeleton!

21. Lift a Mini

Learn about forces and see if you can move an actual car with just one hand.

22. Experiden

Little ones can play and explore in their own way in this space designed special for 0-4. 

23. Shadow stories

Can you tell a story with shadows? Practise your shadow puppets and learn all about light.

A young boy looking at shadow puppets on a screen Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

24. Shake hands

Step up to the mirror and shake hands with yourself to find out more about reflection. 

25. Heat vision

Hot or cold? Check out the thermal camera that senses heat instead of light.

26. Steady hands

Trace the shapes and move the wand over the wire without setting off the buzzer!

A young man playing a steady hand game Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

27. Silent sound

Move around in waves of sound and make music with your body.

28. Musical pipes

Hit the pipes with the paddle to play your own tune.

Two children playing on a museum interactive display © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

29. Chat to our expert volunteers

Learn more about our highlight objects by talking to our fantastic team of volunteers.

30. Conversation Space

Have your say in the Conversation Space. Take a closer look at our changing displays, enjoy regular craft activities and share your thoughts using our pegboards!

Discover

Reveal amazing objects and uncover the people and ideas that changed the world.

31. Tony Wilson   

In 1978, Tony Wilson co-founded influential independent Manchester record label Factory Records with Alan Erasmus.

Through Factory Records, he launched the careers of some of the city's most influential bands, including Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays.

A vinyl copy of Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' album on display in a museum Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

32. Madeline Linford

The successful career of trailblazing journalist Madeline Linford helped pave the way for today's female journalists. Linford started work as an assistant in the Manchester Guardian's advertising department in 1913 and went on to be the Guardian's first ever female editor in 1922.

33. Isabel Hardwich  

Isabel Hardwich was an electrical engineer and physicist who worked at Metropolitan Vickers in Trafford Park. She campaigned tirelessly to encourage more women to follow careers in science and engineering, challenging the widely-held but inaccurate beliefs held at the time, that woman didn't have the skills for these jobs.

34. Cost of cotton

Enslaved people forced to grow cotton on plantations in the southern United States met Manchester's demand for plentiful and affordable cotton. The city's wealth and success depended on this system of human exploitation.

35. Curiosity Stop     

Our Expert Explainers are on hand to ignite curiosity and reveal wonder during a series of short conversations that unravel some fun scientific secrets. Witness impressive scientific party tricks to try at home.   

36. Spotlight talk

Hear about our historic site and buildings, discover more about Manchester's motoring heritage and explore the role of women in the age of Enlightenment in one of three illuminating Spotlight Talks led by our Highlights volunteers.

A museum volunteer holding up an illustration of the early railways, and talking to two people Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

37. Baby demonstration

Witness a trailblazing piece of computer history at work! Watch as our expert Baby volunteers run a programme on this 17-foot-long early computer, and hear how it relates to the phones, tablets and consoles we’re familiar with today.

38. Planting stories

For almost 150 years, Liverpool Road Station was a bustling hub of people, animals and machines, keeping produce, raw materials and finished goods moving in and out of the industrial city, and connecting Manchester with the world. Explore our beautiful garden to uncover more about the stories of our historic site.

39. Special Exhibitions Gallery

Our newest permanent gallery is a spectacular space that originates and hosts some of the world's best science exhibitions and experiences in the North. Don't forget to check out what the latest exhibition is! 

40. Changing highlights gallery

Don't forget to check out what's on offer inside the 'Changing Highlights' section of the Revolution Manchester gallery. Currently on display is an incredible collection of objects from Professor Stephen Hawking's office, giving an an insight into the working life and personality of the world-renowned theoretical physicist.

A woman looking into a museum display Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

...And a bonus thing to see

Don't forget to check out our biggest object of all—our seven-acre, globally significant site! 
 
The museum is situated on the site of the oldest surviving passenger railway station, in the heart of the world's first industrial city. As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester and the industrial heritage buildings the museum now inhabits were the catalyst for scientific innovation and unprecedented change worldwide.
 
Step inside our Grade II listed New Warehouse, which was constructed in 1880 following an expansion of Liverpool Road Station (the Manchester terminus of the pioneering Liverpool to Manchester Railway); spend time in our historic Upper Yard to observe the work taking place to conserve Power Hall, which was built in 1855 as a shipping shed for the station; and pause on Floor 1 for views across to the 1830 Station, the oldest surviving passenger railway station in the world, and 1830 Warehouse, the world's first purpose-built railway warehouse. 
 
Many of these buildings are being conserved, repaired and improved through our ongoing regeneration project, creating improved gallery experiences, indoor and outdoor spaces and an environmentally sustainable museum for everyone to enjoy into the future.