SF Museum Exhibition

By Jonathan Cowie: The Science Museum (that’s the world famous one in Kensington, London) has just launched a new exhibit on what Carl Sagan once mused (though not mentioned in the exhibit itself) science fiction and science’s ‘dance’. SF2 Concatenation reprographic supremo Tony Bailey and I were invited by the Museum to have a look on the exhibition’s first day. (The exhibition runs to Star Wars day 2023, May the Fourth.) Having braved Dalek extermination at the Museum’s entrance, we made our way to the exhibition’s foyer – decorated with adverts to travel to Gallifrey – to board our shuttle.

The exhibition covered aspect of SF in all its forms: literature, cinematic, television, comics etc. But it was the science and SF interplay that was the theme linking the displays, the way science fiction inspires scientists both as a career choice and sparking their imagination.

Still from Earth to Moon next to early editions of Verne’s novel and Wells’ First Men in the Moon.

And so we had Uhura’s costume from the Star Trek film and International Space Station US astronaut Mae Jemison pictured who was inspired by Uhura as the character suggested that one day she might be an astronaut.

Along the way we got to do the Drake equation inputting our own variables to calculate the possible number of extraterrestrial technological civilisations in our galaxy.

There was much else to see including SF robots, spacesuits (both SF and Apollo), aliens, hypothetical FTL drive, SF art, comics among a great deal else including several SF Easter eggs for die-hard aficionados: ‘space is really big’, docking bay, 1138 etc.

You can do the entire exhibition at speed in under an hour, but it really is worthwhile reading all the displays’ texts and doing all the interactive items and this will take getting on three hours. If there was a flaw, it was that the list of those participating in the exhibitions planning had a dearth of scientists who have become professional SF authors. Had their brains been picked the exhibit might have been even better!

Details of the exhibition can be found at “Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination”.

An expanded version of this article with extra pictures will shortly be advance-posted by SF2 Concatenation (no doubt there will be a link from File 770.)

Concatenation Science~Com Jonathan Cowie is an environmental scientist who has had a career in science communication (science writing, publishing, author, bioscience advice to Parliamentarians and Government Departments, etc). He is also an SF fan (first convention 1977 Novacon) and is a founding editor of SF2 Concatenation (1987-present) as well as, among much else, an occasional contributor to File 770. He has never curated a museum exhibition.

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