An initial intermedial study of science on television and in museums 1945- 1970

Exploratory Award

Project Team:

Principal Investigator:

Dr Timothy Boon, Science Museum


Jean-Baptiste Gouyon, The Science Museum

Image credit: The broadcaster Richard Dimbleby introduces a BBC Panorama programme from the Science Museum’s Friendship 7 exhibition in 1962.  © Science Museum/ SSPL

Award Information:

This Exploratory Award project examined television programmes and Science museum displays of science and technology in the 1950s and 1960s- a time when TV came to dominate public communication of science. The research found that the Science Museum played a significant part in making sciences and technology public from 1945- 1970.

This project was designed to provide proof of concept for the potential of drawing comparisons between television programmes and Science Museum displays of science and technology in the fifties and sixties. It was also intended to evaluate the strength of the research material (paper archives at the Science Museum, and at the BBC, as well as audio-visual archives) to support a project of this kind, with a view to extending the scope of the research in the future.

The research was organised along four case studies that arose from first surveys of the archives: space exploration, nuclear physics, applied research in food production, and performances of the history of science. Overall, it demonstrates the relevance of the comparative approach and the strength of the material.

The project brought evidence of the richness of the history of the public presentation of science on TV and at the Museum during the fifties and sixties.  Both media concurred in making science and technology part of their audiences’ everyday life, and participated in fostering a public scientific culture that wove science into the fabric of the social and cultural world. The research also testifies to the sophistication of historical actors’ self-reflexivity, be they television producers or museum workers.

Further information:

A Case Study (PDF) of this AHRC Science in Culture Them Exploratory Award is available to download here.

Project dates: February- September 2012