Science Museum prepares for emotional reopening
Natasha McEnroe admits there were some tears shed when The Science Museum was forced to close its doors in March as a result of the coronavirus.
Natasha is in charge of the museum’s Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries – five vast galleries which explore the history of medicine that were built with the help of £8Million in funding from The National Lottery. She said, “Although the lockdown wasn’t a huge surprise, it was still very emotional. People who work at the Museum really love it and for any of the national museums to close felt like a really big deal.”
Natasha, whose formal title is Keeper of Medicine, is delighted that the Science Museum (along with its London neighbours The Natural History Museum and The V&A) is reopening on 19th August.
She said, “I’m incredibly excited. Our museums exist to inspire countless people with stories of incredible achievement and technological advances that have helped humanity overcome challenges throughout history, which feels particularly relevant today.”
Natasha and the rest of the staff at The Science Museum have been busy during lockdown. Recognising the public’s thirst for scientific information about the coronavirus – as well as the needs of parents homeschooling their children – it has focussed on expanding the stories and resources it shares on its websites.
Natasha said, “We’ve been keeping an eye on what people are interested in. Subjects such as bubonic plague and ventilators have been hugely popular.”
The result of the online expansion, she said, has been “a big increase in visitors” to The Science Museum’s websites.
Another project that has been underway during lockdown is the start of a collection of objects – everything from signage to medical technology – that will tell the story of the coronavirus pandemic for future generations. The artefacts range from the placards that appeared on the podiums at the Government’s daily coronavirus briefings at Downing Street, to four magnets that got stuck in the nose of an Australian astrophysicist when he tried to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during a pandemic.
Natasha said, “When I saw the story about the magnets in the press, I contacted the academic and asked him to keep the magnets for us. He thought it was hilarious that I was emailing him, but agreed to post them to us.”
Collecting artefacts during lockdown has not been easy. Natasha said, “I’ve worked in museums for nearly 30 years and this is by far the most difficult collecting I’ve ever done. Normally, we’d be going out and talking to people and looking at objects, but we’ve been confined at home. And we’re very aware that many of the people we want to talk to shouldn’t be distracted at the moment.”
Natasha is excited the public will once again be able to visit Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries – the largest galleries devoted to the history of medicine in the world, which first opened in November 2019 after 8 years of development. She said, “From a personal perspective, it will be a really emotional moment.”
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10th August 2020
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