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November 2016 - The Death of the Machine?
Dana Centre - Science Museum 


Our last seminar looked at the current status of industrial machinery in UK museums and whether the long-term sustainability of machinery collections could or indeed should be ensured.

The UK’s remaining industrial collections are faced with significant threats to their survival, and these show little sign of abating.

Current challenges include:

Ongoing funding cuts, the demise of industrial-collection-specialist curators and conservators, nationwide deindustrialisation and the rapid growth in automation, and education curriculums offering fewer opportunities to learn about industrial machinery.

The rise of what has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where emerging technologies begin to blur the lines between the physical and digital realms, casts a shadow over the machines of former industrial ages, and might send industrial collections further into obscurity. Can museums embrace the technological revolution to revive and enhance interest in machines that revolutionized the 18th and 19th centuries?

What’s more, should they? With a decline in industrial collecting opportunities and a growing movement for community-driven museums, might there be a case for mothballing machinery collections and focussing on user participation – with increased access initiatives in the form of working-exhibit rides and demonstrations, and tours and activities behind the scenes?

Industrial museums are facing one of the most challenging times in their history, and the actions that are taken now will have a lasting impact long into the future.

 Speakers were: Oliver Green former Head Curator of the London Transport Museum, Ben Russell, Science Museum, Laura Musgrave and Daniel Martin (Derby Museums) 

Copyright: Association of British Transport & Engineering Museums 2016