Bradford – National Science and Media Museum

It took me a little while to work out how to take this photo without taking a photo of myself as a reflection at the same time. Anyway, this museum is free of charge to enter and is part of the National Science Museum. I was the first one into the museum today, although that is primarily as I always seem to arrive everywhere early for no apparent reason. The staff member at the entrance was helpful, scanning my ticket as although they’re free they still have to be pre-booked. The staff also appear to have been trained (as I note it is mentioned in other reviews) to leave a donation on entrance, but I can imagine times are challenging and that approach probably tempts some people who might not otherwise leave anything.

The lower floor permanent collection is quite substantial and is a history primarily of photography and videography.

The first section explains how photography looked in the Victorian period.

I’m pleased that I don’t have to sit like this for a photo. Not that I have many photos taken of me.

Photography at the beach and the evolution of the huge Kodak company, who have given a substantial archive of stuff to the museum. I’ve taken a fair few photos of some interesting individuals exhibits, which I may one day getting round to writing about for my four blog readers.

There’s some of their stuff, a heap of cameras. There were no shortage of cameras on display on this level, but largesse wasn’t repeated on the upper floors where there were very few actual exhibits.

The interactive Wonderlab exhibition, more designed for children.

You could shout down this and see how it echoed or something. I decided against that.

A mirror maze. There was no way that I was going to do that, I’d just walk into a mirror and you can absolutely guarantee that at that moment six people would see me.

This is a fake Dalek (or whatever they’re called) from Doctor Who.

Play School. I’m obviously too young to remember this. I actually assumed when visiting that these were copies of the originals, but they’re actually the real ones that were left after the series came to an end. I would have stared at them for longer if I had realised….

Gordon the Gopher, once in the broom cupboard with Phillip Schofield, and I do remember that. This doesn’t appear to be original as it’s not listed on the on-line collections of the Science Museum.

Zippy and George from Rainbow. I also have no idea whether these are copies, the museum hasn’t put them on their on-line catalogue and some people think they’re real and some say that they’re fake. The museum doesn’t help here, they posted a series of images of their puppets on Twitter and noted some things were real, but didn’t add that for these.

I’ve alerted my friend Liam that I will be taking his children here on a trip and he seems very agreeable to that   🙂

Some of this museum was really very good such as the permanent collection on photography, but there’s a huge amount of wasted space here and some questionable uses of that space. They appear to have a museum that’s far too big for what they need and I’m slightly puzzled why they don’t take some more items out of storage. The story of photography exhibition ended with digital cameras from twenty years ago, that perhaps needs something of an update as well.

I also don’t really understand (despite reading the reasoning carefully) why they changed their name from the National Media Museum, which seems an excellent description of the place, to the National Science and Media Museum, as there’s a very limited amount of science here other than in bits of the Wonderlab exhibit. I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to be and personally I thought some of it was just a bit of a mess. It did feel a bit like they’ve left all the good science stuff at the National Science Museum, which is pretty spectacular, and sent some of the junk up to Bradford. The television exhibition had very few exhibits at all (other than their puppets collection), none of a science or engineering nature and so I assume they weren’t allowed anything nice from the main collections in London.

The museum scrapped a lot of their film work and festivals a few years ago, and for some reason got rid of the Royal Photographic Society’s huge 270,000 photography collection down to the Victoria & Albert Museum. I can imagine the V&A’s delight at this, with the National Media Museum new head, Jo Quinton-Tulloch, saying:

“Our new mission will concentrate on inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers in the fields of light and sound, as well as demonstrating the cultural impact of these subjects.”

Anyway, it’s free, so I can’t complain (well, I clearly now have in writing this, but I can’t always be positive about everything) and I’m glad I visited for the morning. Friendly staff, a Covid-safe environment and some interesting displays. There were also nearly no other visitors, so at least there wasn’t a cacophony of children shouting. So, sort of recommended….