Ah Science Museum – it’s been a long time. With all the Covid-safe complications and just being dog-tired from getting back into the swing of life we’ve been mainly spending our Saturdays mooching around HP rather than going on grand days out. I mean, we did go to B&Q last week but that’s as exciting as it’s got.
This week was different though. We had Yorkshire folk staying, who were wide-eyed at the prospect of doing some London things in That There London. We got them to do all the booking – cause pre-booking is essential for the big museums at the weekend nowadays – and, even though they’d booked early, the Wonderlab slots were all sold out. Still, there would be plenty of other bits of the museum to explore.
We had a specific timeslot for arrival and South Kensington tube is currently closed for the Piccadilly line so I wasn’t sure how it would all work. Naturally, we were about half an hour early so just dawdled from the tube and the nice lady on the queue barrier let us in when we still had around 10 minutes to go, technically. Once we were through the doors we had to scan our e-tickets at some new scanning stations but other than that, everything was pretty much normal. Of course, we were strongly advised to wear masks and there were some exhibits that were closed because of distancing but yknow, as normal as possible under the circumstances.
We didn’t have much of a plan, except that we were booked onto the Force Typhoon at 3 o clock. Eva was keen to go and see the Space bit first, so we started wandering through the ground floor to see what was new in space.
Well, this was new…I think. I can’t remember when we last visited, pre-lockdown but I think it may have been early on in 2019. And Tim Peake’s Soyuz spacecraft arrived in the museum in the May of the same year. There was an interactive screen next to it where you can look around a virtual interior of the craft and, of course, both kids wanted to use it at once despite there being a window they could look into to see much the same thing. We also had a look at some of the old favourites, like the hologram planet:
This piece of narrative took on new meaning post-lockdown though:
The same faces for months on end? Imagine that!
We were planning to go to Pattern Pod but there was a queue and, as it transpired, both my children are way too old for it anyway because it’s only for Under 8s. I’m not sure there was an official age limit before but I definitely thought Roo was in danger of trampling the small ones even a couple of years ago so it seemed fair enough. There is a bit of a gap for older kids though, given that Wonderlab sells out so quickly. Maybe the interactive exhibits like “Who Am I?” would fill that gap?
The answer is yes, partly. As we walked in the large screen was showing some kind of system error and there were a number of exhibits that were closed. But the ones that were on and working were good. Eva did a game where droids tried to capture human emotions:
And Reuben thought that these human expressions were all variations on “having a dump”:
From there, we went down and back up to the new Medicine galleries. I’d seen some pretty, flower-like things from the ground floor that, of course, turned out to be some kind of sinister representation of how disease spreads.
I’d noticed the old Pandemic section next to the Pattern Pod had disappeared, which made me think it had been quietly shuffled away when pandemics became less like a fun computer game and more like something that took over our entire lives. I was wrong though – the pandemic game has just been moved upstairs into the new section so, if you’re not already tired of predicting how a pandemic can infect an entire city, you can still play the computer game version.
There are interactive bits in the next gallery as well. Reuben spent some time putting this poor man’s organs back in entirely the wrong places, giving him a liver as a hat and a pair of lungs as a pair of trousers. What has happened to the British educational system?
The medicine galleries were a bit much for the squeamish girl but she liked the communications gallery better. She’s keen on all things internet and phone-based and there was a game where you had to plan where to put phone masts in order to gain the best coverage. Again, Reuben didn’t exactly take the challenge seriously and put all his masts in the same place, to ensure really good coverage for that one guy. Hopefully not the same guy who’s currently wearing his lungs as a pair of slacks.
I think we swooped by the Mathematics Gallery at some point as well but the kids were flagging at that point so I think we just had a bit of a sit down next to this things and didn’t really look at any of the exhibits:
We were booked onto Typhoon Force at 3 so had to rush through the flight gallery in order to be there on time. We’d often walked past these simulators on the way to Wonderlab but had never tried one before. Eva seemed a bit nervous just before it started but she declared it to be “so much fun” as she came out. It’s not as nauseau-inducing as I’d feared it might be and was actually quite a gentle swoop over the Lake District and some unnamed mountains in Wales. It lasted six minutes which was about right.
After that though, we were well ready for refreshments and we had the usual confusion at Shack Bar about where to queue and where to stand while waiting. Plus the added complications of masks and perspex screens. It took a few sprints to the table at the far end of the cafe area before everyone had what they needed and I did get melting ice cream all over my hand. But then my brother-in-law got ice cream all over his mask because he forgot he might need to take it off before eating. So I win. Plus I had a coffee and a millionaire’s shortbread, so I was definitely winning.
It was almost time to start heading home but we had a few more places to check out first. We had dashed through Flight in the manner of people who had a genuine flight to catch (chance would be a fine thing!) so it was nice to walk back through in more of a relaxed manner and view the planes from the walkway. Also, if I’d been so inclined, I could really have hocked a loogie from up here. Lucky Nathan was wearing his hat:
(Also don’t hock loogies. It’s not Covid-secure)
There was also a plane with a cut out to the cockpit, that the kids liked:
From Flight, we could walk across the top to “Engineer Your Future”, which I thought might be new but a quick google suggests it’s been there since 2014. I guess we’ve just never got to the top-west corner of the museum before. It was very interactive, with games like Rugged Rovers:
I downloaded the app and tried to connect it to the big screen but it wasn’t working. There seemed to be a few bits that were similarly glitchy. We couldn’t make this one do anything:
But there were lots of other fun things, like a game where you had to design a baggage sorting system for an aeroplane. Spoiler: no baggage got sorted on my watch.
We popped downstairs to Atmosphere, which I don’t remember much of except for this photo opportunity:
I think I was a bit tired by that point. Roo wanted to go back to “Who Am I?” and this time, the interactive screen as we walked in was working:
This is pretty much what happens when you ask Reuben to stand still for a photo. Which is how the Christmas card shot we later took outside the NHM was a bit blurry:
On the way out of the museum, we stopped at the gift shop. Eva was tempted to buy a Laika space dog but I’m glad she didn’t because that might have made me sad every time I looked at her. So instead, she spent £12 of her own money on rocks. Obviously.
We were aiming to pull off the Gloucester Road fast food hack, which has the advantage of walking past a very pretty and Christmassy NHM. But my beloved hack didn’t go so well this time. The ordering machines were broken and let us put the full family order in (twice!) before bleeping out and telling us to go and order from a real person. More masks, more confusion. There was no napkins and – hopefully unconnected – no loo roll in the toilets. Only one of the drinks machines worked and it didn’t have any of the fun flavoured Sprites or Cokes, just normal Coke and orange Fanta. But we got the kids fed, which was verging on urgent by 6PM, considering their last meal had been a 10:30 brunch.
And we also got to spend a bit of time contemplating the underside of the emergency staircase at Gloucester Road tube. Don’t ask why.
So covid-era Science Museum – a few bits missing here and there but still fun. Don’t forget to pre-book. More information here.