Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum is a splendid museum dedicated to the science behind the local industry. The Birmingham Collection of Science & Industry was started in the mid-19th century, initially consisting of collections of weapons from the gun trade and the Birmingham Proof House. The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery opened in 1885, including science collections. In 1951 the Museum of Science and Industry opened at Elkington Silver Electroplating Works, Newhall Street. Over the following years, the museum acquired individual artefacts, as well as entire collections, that were related to local industry and the history of science and technology. Birmingham City Council decided in 1995 to relocate the museum when it was given an opportunity by the Millennium Commission to construct a new building. At the time, the old building was falling into a state of disrepair, and many of the artefacts were no longer in working order. The former museum closed in 1997, and Thinktank opened on 29 September 2001 as part of the Millennium Point complex. The area adjacent to the building is designated Eastside City Park.
Thinktank has four floors of over 200 hands-on exhibits and artefacts. Each floor has a theme, in general going from the past, in The Past (Level 0), through The Balcony (Level 1) and The Present (Level 2), to the future, in The Future gallery (Level 3). The Past. Boulton and Watt Gallery: Display of objects relating to James Watt, Matthew Boulton, William Murdoch and associates, including other members of the Lunar Society. Move It : Vehicles that were built in, or used around, the Birmingham area, including bikes, cars, trams, trains and planes. The gallery includes a pair of robots that display how a car is spot-welded during construction. Power Up : The museum's steam engine collection. There is a display further on in the exhibition explaining the history of Boulton and Watt, and how they developed their engines. Other steam engines in this exhibition are those that have been used for pumping sewage, generating electricity, agricultural work and teaching. There is also a display explaining how power is currently generated by a steam turbine.
The Balcony - Level 1. We made it : This gallery contains over 20 interactive exhibits and 1200 objects showing the history of Birmingham as "the workshop of the world", covering the production of everyday goods from raw materials to finished product. It is split into four sections: "Nuts and Bolts" on iron and steel goods, "Treasure" on precious metals and gemstones, "Tins and Things" on aluminium and decorative glass goods, and "Gadgets" on modern devices made of plastic and wood. The Spitfire Gallery : This is a new gallery focused on the Spitfire. The gallery features a history of the Spitfire and their manufacture at Castle Bromwich, artefacts such as engine parts and flight suits, as well as hands-on exhibits including a model of a Merlin enigine, designed by Arthur John Rowledge (1876-1957). Unfortunately, due to its weight of over 900 kg, the Museums Griffon engine, fitted to later Spitfire versions, could not be put on display.
The Present - Level 2. Things About Me : 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 (after the gallery name), who act as guides throughout the museum. Wild Life Gallery: This is a living history gallery containing insects, birds and mammals, as well as fossils. Taxidermied animals include a polar bear, a great auk and a pair of huia. Skeletons include a giant deer. Fossils include a Triceratops skull. The Street Gallery: The Street is designed to show visitors how science affects their everyday life, and how objects they see around them work. Kids' City Gallery: Kids' 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, café, and garage, as well as an animation studio featuring Shaun the Sheep. Medicine Matters Gallery: Medicine Matters is an exhibition that contains displays on modern medicine and medical breakthroughs, including current medical practices and the moral dilemmas that occur, while other exhibits cover DNA, epilepsy, genetics, vaccination and personal health.
The Futures - Level 3. The Futures gallery deals with the impact of science, technology and medicine, both at present and in the future. The interactive gallery includes display screens, controlled with trackballs and buttons, with a "Futures" unit surrounding the space and a "Space Mapper" unit in the middle. There is also a "Talking Point" area about future projections by scientists, as well as "Create an Alien" and "RoboThespian" exhibits. In addition there is the Science Garden. The Science Garden is an interactive outdoor space with over 30 exhibits. It also includes an outdoor classroom for shows and school workshops. It is located in front of Thinktank, and forms part of the Eastside City Park.
And then there is the Planetarium. Thinktank Planetarium opened on 17 December 2005. It was Birmingham's first planetarium, and the UK's first purpose-built digital planetarium. Its opening coincided with the closure of the London Planetarium. It has 70 seats, and the projection dome is 10 metres (33 ft) in diameter. The main operating system is Digistar 3. Six 1400x1050 DLP projectors, each connected to a PC, work together to produce a hemispherical image 3200x3200 pixels in size. It is used to display stars as they would appear from on Earth at any point in time, and to simulate travel to the stars.] On 4 August 2014 it was used to project the night sky as it would have appeared on 3 August 1914, as part of a World War One memorial event. Aside from projecting stars, digital planetariums can fill the dome with 360˚ of sound and video, and are therefore also known as immersive cinemas or 'fulldome' theatres. The planetarium displays films about space and the night sky, the human body and undersea exploration, as well as music and light shows. In September 2014 it was used to provide a live link with Tim Peake at a European Space Agency training camp.
Thinktank is fully accessible for visitors with mobility difficulties. There are central lifts to all floors. Guide and Assistance dogs are very welcome at Thinktank and a water bowl is available for use. The nearest spending area is in East Side City Park which is adjacent to Millennium Point. The multi-storey car park next to Millennium Point is operated by Birmingham City Council and offers free parking to blue badge holders. One personal assistant is permitted free entry to Thinktank when accompanying those in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. There are accessible toilets on all levels. They also have baby and adult changing facilities. The Adult changing facility includes a hydraulic changing table; this is located in the accessible toilet on Level 0. There are seating areas in all gallery spaces, on each floor of the museum. The planetarium is equipped with an analogue induction loop and has spaces for up to 6 wheelchairs. Subtitled planetarium shows take place on a Friday afternoon and the first show on a Saturday and Sunday morning. They have a variety of resources available for visitors to use during their visit including wheelchairs, portable induction loops, large print maps and guides and large magnifying glasses. These are available from the Thinktank ticket desk on level 2.
Location : Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7XG
Transport: Moor Street (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 94, 55, 55a, 72, 70 and 14 stop at Millenium Point.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £13.00; Concessions £9.50; Children (3 - 15) £9.50; Planetarium £1.50 per person
Tel: 0121 348 8000