‘The Information Age’ @ the Science Museum

The new gallery is open, but not everyone is happy with how it's turned out

A new permanent gallery exploring the history of communications technology was opened at the London Science Museum on Friday.

Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the gallery in a ceremony that saw her send her first tweet, signed “Elizabeth R.”

Information Age: Six Networks That Changed Our World tells the story of the communications networks of the last two centuries through more than 800 objects.

The exhibits range in size from a modern smartphone to a rare unlaunched communications satellite. The centrepiece of the gallery is a six metre tall wood and copper device that was once the heart of the most powerful radio transmitter in the world.

The gallery is about more than just artefacts though. As Dan Green, Content Developer for Information Age, stresses, “this gallery is as much about people as it is about technology.”

“We tried to pitch stories throughout the whole gallery that might surprise you.”

One such story is that of Ruby Sharp, a hearing disabled person – and former museum designer herself – who explains in an interactive video in the gallery the impact of the Internet on the communication of those with disabilities.

“I’m pleased with the videos,” she said. “They really did a good job, because as far as I’m concerned they really got what I thought was important over.”

However, she is critical of the way parts of the two year project have been displayed: “I tried to get them not to use ‘hard of hearing’ because Americans don’t use that term, and a lot of other countries don’t know what it means.”

“Until we went, we knew nothing about exactly what it was going to be,” she added. “A lot of people feel that no-one will know what it [the hard of hearing exhibit] is. There’s no script on the wall, and you have to press the screen in order to get the things to show up. It’s incoherent as to why we’re there, and what that video is about.”

Meetings with museum representatives to fix early problems such as these are planned, and with the gallery expected to remain in place for at least 10 years you’d hope they’ll get it right eventually.