is a science museum
A science museum or a science centre is a museum devoted primarily to science. Older science museums tended to concentrate on static displays of objects related to natural history, paleontology, geology, industry and industrial machinery, etc. Modern trends in museology have broadened the range of...
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
. Opened in 2001, it succeeded and has several exhibits from the City's Museum of Science and Industry. It is part of the Millennium Point complex.
has four floors of over 200 hands-on exhibits and artefacts. Each floor has a theme, in general going from the past, in Thinkback
(Level 0), through Thinkhere
(Level 1) and Thinknow
(Level 2), to the future, in the Thinkahead
gallery (Level 3).
The decision to move the science museum was taken by Birmingham City Council in 1995, given the opportunity presented by the Millennium Commission to build a new museum. The old building was falling into a state of disrepair, and many of the artefacts were no longer in working order.
In September 2001, Thinktank at Millennium Point was one of the few Millennium projects to be opened both on time and on budget.
The photography policy of Thinktank is that all exhibits may be photographed, with the exception of the Brain in Medicine Matters, and the Lotus Sports bike in Move It.
This gallery contains the Futures
exhibition, dealing with future technology, innovation and space travel. The majority of the displays are screens, with a trackball to choose to play a video on a certain topic.
Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres...
- Emotive Robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...
- Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...
- Growing organs
- Artificial heart
An artificial heart is a mechanical device that replaces the heart. Artificial hearts are typically used in order to bridge the time to heart transplantation, or to permanently replace the heart in case transplantation is impossible...
- The Jarvik 2000
- Video Pills
- Silicon Gyroscope
- Micro air vehicle
A micro air vehicle , or micro aerial vehicle , is a class of unmanned aerial vehicles that has a size restriction and may be autonomous. Modern craft can be as small as 15 centimetres...
There is also a programmable drumming robot. Visitors can program the robot via a screen where they wave a drumstick, moving a corresponding drumstick on the screen around a graphic representation of the real-life drums. Once a sequence of 12 drum "hits" is entered, the instructions are sent to the robot, which plays the sequence.
The Future of Space
section of the Futures gallery has various displays, including the International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...
simulation, and the Mars Rover
A Mars rover is an automated motor vehicle which propels itself across the surface of the planet Mars after landing.Rovers have several advantages over stationary landers: they examine more territory, they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to...
The planetarium at Thinktank is the UK's first purpose-built digital planetarium.
The image of the night sky is projected onto a domed screen above viewers heads using 6 multimedia projectors, each connected to a PC. Not only can a traditional planetarium show of the night sky be seen, but due to it essentially being 6 combined computer displays almost anything can be viewed on the planetarium dome.
This gallery deals with current technology and scientific understanding, and how everyday life has been affected by scientific ideas and advances.
There are five galleries on this floor:
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, who act as guides throughout the museum.
The section that is most popular in Things About Me
is the small dance area where children are encouraged to exercise by doing various dance moves as instructed by a TAM.
This is a classic living history gallery, with stuffed and preserved animals. There is a collection of skeleton
The skeleton is the body part that forms the supporting structure of an organism. There are two different skeletal types: the exoskeleton, which is the stable outer shell of an organism, and the endoskeleton, which forms the support structure inside the body.In a figurative sense, skeleton can...
s, skulls and fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...
The main attractions in this gallery are the dinosaur crocodile, great deer skeleton, and Triceratops
Triceratops is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsid dinosaur which lived during the late Maastrichtian stage of the Late Cretaceous Period, around 68 to 65 million years ago in what is now North America. It was one of the last dinosaur genera to appear before the great Cretaceous–Paleogene...
skull fossil. The crocodile skeleton is mounted in the floor, with a glass cover allowing visitors to walk across the skeleton.
is designed to show visitors how science affects their everyday life, and how objects they see around them work.
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, cafe, and garage.
is an exhibition that contains displays of current medical practices, and the moral dilemmas that occur, while other exhibits cover DNA, epilepsy, genetics, vaccination and personal health.
A main section of this exhibition is the "virtual surgery" display, where 3 visitors can take part in hip replacement
Hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the hip joint is replaced by a prosthetic implant. Hip replacement surgery can be performed as a total replacement or a hemi replacement. Such joint replacement orthopaedic surgery generally is conducted to relieve arthritis pain or fix severe...
surgery, as the surgeon, head nurse, or anaesthetist.
is a gallery looking at the development of Birmingham, from its medieval past, right up to present day. It looks at Birmingham in the Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...
, Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...
, World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
, and then a more recent history involving the Birmingham pub bombings
The Birmingham pub bombings occurred on 21 November 1974 in Birmingham, England. The explosions killed 21 people and injured 182. The devices were placed in two central Birmingham pubs – the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town . Although warnings were sent, the pubs were not evacuated in time...
The LEGOlab is a one hour workshop run by Thinktank where customers can program Lego NXT robots to complete a variety of tasks. Aimed at older children, above 8, as even though the Lego NXT robots are easy to program it would be challenging for a younger child to grasp the challenges within one hour.
Concentrating on Birmingham's transport history, Move It
contains all of the vehicles on display in Thinktank
, including the LMS
The London Midland and Scottish Railway was a British railway company. It was formed on 1 January 1923 under the Railways Act of 1921, which required the grouping of over 120 separate railway companies into just four...
Princess Coronation Class
The London Midland and Scottish Railway Coronation Class is a class of express passenger steam locomotives designed by William Stanier. They were an enlarged version of the LMS Princess Royal Class. Several examples were originally built as streamlined, though this was later removed...
A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive that produces its power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fueled by burning some combustible material, usually coal, wood or oil, to produce steam in a boiler, which drives the steam engine...
, 46235 City of Birmingham
, Railton Mobil Special, a Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...
and Hawker Hurricane
The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force...
hanging from the ceiling, and Birmingham Corporation Tramways
Birmingham Corporation Tramways operated a network of tramways in Birmingham from 1904 until 1953. It was the largest narrow-gauge tramway network in the UK, built to a gauge of 3 ft 6 inches...
A tram is a passenger rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets and also sometimes on separate rights of way. It may also run between cities and/or towns , and/or partially grade separated even in the cities...
In the gallery are a pair of robots that display how a car is spot-welded during construction.
This exhibition displays steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...
s, the main one being the Smethwick Engine
The Smethwick Engine is a steam engine made by Boulton and Watt; brought into service in May 1779.Originally, it was one of two engines used to pump water back up to the summit level of the BCN Old Main Line canal at Smethwick, not far from the Soho Foundry where it was made...
, the oldest working steam engine in the world, built by the Boulton and Watt Company. 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
Sewage is water-carried waste, in solution or suspension, that is intended to be removed from a community. Also known as wastewater, it is more than 99% water and is characterized by volume or rate of flow, physical condition, chemical constituents and the bacteriological organisms that it contains...
, generating electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...
, agricultural work and teaching.
There is also a display explaining how power is currently generated by a steam turbine
A steam turbine is a mechanical device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam, and converts it into rotary motion. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884....
concentrates on the products that have been manufactured in Birmingham since the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...
, until about 1950. There are various cabinets containing products that have been made in Birmingham. Also in the gallery is a small display with commentary from the point of view of people involved in the manufacturing industry throughout the ages.
The old science museum was free to the public. Thinktank
is not directly managed by Birmingham City Council
The Birmingham City Council is the body responsible for the governance of the City of Birmingham in England, which has been a metropolitan district since 1974. It is the most populated local authority in the United Kingdom with, following a reorganisation of boundaries in June 2004, 120 Birmingham...
, and charges an entry fee to visitors.
When the old science museum had to close, some of the exhibits were lent to the Thinktank Trust, a charitable organisation, for public viewing and to be maintained. Many visitors feel they are now paying to see something that should be free.
Thinktank offers a range of activities during the school holidays and weekends. These range from free storytelling for under 7's, to whole family "shows" on a particular topic. Some of the daily activities are free to all paying visitors and others are optional extras.