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Thinktank is a science museum in Birmingham, England. Opened in 2001, it has some exhibits from the now-closed Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Science Museum. It is part of the Millennium Point complex.
Thinktank has four floors featuring over 200 hands on exhibits and artefacts. Each floor has a theme, in general going from the past, in Thinkback (Level 0), through Thinkhere (Level 1) and Thinknow (Level 2), to the future, in the Thinkahead gallery (Level 3).
The decision to move the science museum was taken by Birmingham City Council in 1995, given the opportunity presented by the Millennium Commission to build a new museum. The old building was falling into a state of disrepair, many of the artefacts were no longer in working order and accessibility was very difficult for those with mobility requirements[citation (source) needed] .
In September 2001, Thinktank at Millennium Point was one of the few Millennium projects to be opened both on time and on budget. Whereas the old science museum focussed entirely on Birmingham’s industrial history, Thinktank encourages visitors to question how science and technology affects our daily life past and present, and learn how science and discovery will shape our future.
The photography policy of Thinktank is that all exhibits may be photographed, with the exception of the Brain in Medicine Matters, and the Lotus Sports bike in Move It.
This gallery contains the Futures exhibition, dealing with future technology, innovation and space travel. The majority of the displays are screens, with a trackball to choose to play a video on a certain topic.[citation (source) needed]
- Emotive Robots
- Artificial Intelligence
- Growing organs
- Artificial heart - The Jarvik 2000
- Video Pills
- Silicon Gyroscope
- Micro air vehicles (MAV)
There is also a programmable drumming robot. Visitors can program the robot via a screen where they wave a drumstick, moving a corresponding drumstick on the screen around a graphic representation of the real-life drums. Once a sequence of 12 drum "hits" is entered, the instructions are sent to the robot, which plays the sequence.[citation (source) needed]
The image of the night sky is projected onto a domed screen above viewers heads using 6 multimedia projectors, each connected to a PC. This means not only can a traditional planetarium show of the night sky be seen, but due to it essentially being 6 combined computer displays almost anything can be viewed on the planetarium dome.
This gallery deals with current technology and scientific understanding, and how everyday life has been affected by scientific ideas and advances.
There are many galleries on this floor, including:
- Things about me
- The Street
- Kid's City
- Medicine Matters
Things about meEdit
This exhibition is aimed at younger children, helping them to understand how their own body works, and how to keep it working. It is a bright and noisy gallery. There are small characters called TAMs, who act as guides throughout the museum.
The section that is most popular in Things About Me is the small dance area where children are encouraged to exercise by doing various dance moves as instructed by a TAM.
The main attractions in this gallery are the dinosaur crocodile, great deer skeleton, and Triceratops skull fossil. The crocodile skeleton is mounted in the floor, with a glass cover allowing visitors to walk across the skeleton.
The Street is designed to show visitors how science affects their everyday life, and how objects they see around them work.
Kid's City is an exhibition that has been designed for small children, aged 7 and younger. It is more of a play area than a traditional exhibition, but also contains a garden with water feature, a health centre, cafe, and garage.
Medicine Matters is an exhibition that contains displays of current medical practices, and the moral dilemmas that occur, while other exhibits cover DNA, epilepsy, genetics, vaccination and personal health.
A main section of this exhibition is the "virtual surgery" display, where 3 visitors can take part in hip replacement surgery, as the surgeon, head nurse, or anaesthetist.
City Stories is a gallery looking at the development of Birmingham, from its medieval past, right up to present day. It looks at Birmingham in the Civil War, Industrial Revolution, World War II, and then a more recent history involving the Birmingham pub bombings.
The LEGOlab is a one hour workshop run by Thinktank where customers can program Lego NXT robots to complete a variety of tasks. Aimed at older children, above 8, as even though the Lego NXT robots are easy to program it would be challenging for a younger child to grasp the challenges within one hour.
Concentrating on Birmingham's transport history, Move It contains all of the vehicles on display in Thinktank.
Those vehicles being exhibited include the LMS Princess Coronation Class steam locomotive, 46235 City of Birmingham, Railton Mobil Special, a Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane hanging from the ceiling, and Birmingham Corporation Tramways tram 395.[citation (source) needed]
This exhibition contains all the steam engines in Thinktank, the main one being the Smethwick Engine, the oldest working steam engine in the world.[citation (source) needed] Built by the Boulton and Watt Company. There is a display further on in the exhibition explaining the history of Boulton and Watt, and how they developed their steam engines.
There is also a display explaining how power is currently generated by a steam turbine.
Making Things concentrates on the products that have been manufactured in Birmingham since the Middle Ages, until about 1950. There are various cabinets containing products that have been made in Birmingham. Also in the gallery is a small display with commentary from the point of view of people involved in the manufacturing industry throughout the ages.
Criticisms of the museumEdit
The old Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries science museum was free to the public, something which was very popular. Thinktank is not directly managed by Birmingham City Council, so charges an entry fee to visitors, to pay for their costs.
When the old science museum had to close, some of the exhibits were lent to the Thinktank Trust, for public viewing and to be maintained. Many visitors feel they are now paying to see something that was previously free (and in some cases were donated on that basis).
It should be noted however, that the 'Thinktank Trust' that runs the museum is structured as a charity based organisation and so (claim) without admission charges, the museum could simply not be maintained. Valuable and historic artefacts from in and around the West Midlands would be lost forever. It could be argued that it should be free as it was part paid for by Lottery funding and they could use a corporate sponsorship and event hire revenue to fund the museum.
Thinktank offers a range of activities during the school holidays and weekends. These range from free storytelling for under 7's, to whole family "shows" on a particular topic. Some of the daily activities are free to all paying visitors and others are optional extras.
References / sources Edit
- Official website
- Collections website, 'Birmingham Stories'
- Your Icons Highlights from the Birmingham science museum collection