A large nostalgia filled space in the Science Museum will be closing soon, giving you just a few weeks to sigh with oh so many wistful memories

The gallery, in the museum’s basement, is all about household appliances — and it’s marvellous.

Who would have thought that toasters, irons, kettles, televisions and washing machines could be so fascinating to look at? Yet, these domestic appliances are at once familiar — for a radio is, after all, a radio, and a washing machine has only ever had one function — and yet they are a strange world of unfamiliarity.

The world of the familiar we see around us every day twisted slightly out of shape, we’ve been steampunked into a new land that is unsettling and beguiling all at once.

This is a gallery of the familiar yet strange. It is an undiscovered country of the past for many who have never seen the marvellous modern machines that their grandparents would have thought were the height of sophistication.

Ranging from early white goods, which were never white at the time, to brown goods — the electronics of their time, which were often brown then but rarely now.

It’s a large collection — but soon it won’t be available.

Sadly, just shy of its 30th anniversary, the space filled with domestic delights is to close so that the items can move elsewhere and the space can be reused for something else.

The gallery will close on Sunday 2nd June 2024, so you have just six weeks to pay a visit. Take your parents and grandparents and a visit will be accompanied by a soundtrack of “ohhs”, “ahhs” and regular exclamations of “I used to own one of those!”

The Secret Life of the Home gallery is in the basement. Don’t use the stairs by the main entrance; you want to use the stairs between the Space and Modern World galleries on the ground floor.

After the gallery closes, the collection will be moved to the Science and Innovation Park near Swindon, which will open later this year for public tours, school and research visits.

Teams across the Science Museum are now considering the long-term future of the space occupied by the gallery.


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  1. Chris Rogers says:

    And so it continues… The gallery was the replacement for the previous 1970s basement design, with its submarine periscope and uncrackable safe, that many of us loved. As for “Teams across the Science Museum are now considering the long-term future of the space occupied by the gallery”, it shouldn’t take them long given the museum is still following its decade-long future plan thingy.

  2. Chas says:

    The designer of the Secret Life of the Home exhibition,the ingenious Tim Hunkin, provides an account of its formulation on his website.

  3. GeoffL says:

    The labels in the bottom left corner of the last photo are in the wrong places.

    For example: The Rotary Hat Iron label is pointing to the crimping machine. The Rotary Hat Iron is actually the thing with the wooden handle laying flat to the left. The Crimping machine is the device that looks like a small mangle.

    Someone call Tim Hunkin!

  4. Ranjit kaur says:

    Hello where is this please I would like to visit it

  5. Jane says:

    Went today. It was fabulous! Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention.

    Particular highlights were the flying hot water bottles and the wonderful display of assorted toasters.

    Don’t miss it!

  6. Simon Barnett says:

    Sad times. The square profile vacuum cleaner with the cutaway/transparent side in your first photo was an old teaching model donated by my dad.

  7. Susan says:

    And they still have the automatic door that opened as you approach. That was so exciting 60 years ago!

  8. Reaper says:

    If they have no idea what they are going to shift it and leave the space empty until they decide? Unfortunately all to normal for modern curators. also moving it to “outside” of Swindon? Very accessible for the vast majority of people who dont live in the Thames Valley and who pay for this museum through their taxes.

  9. Al says:

    Very disappointed that this great gallery is being scrapped.
    A long time visitor of the Science museum loved the childrens gallery with the coal mine and unable to grab ball and much more, buttons to push and handles to turn. I had to walk through the automatic door for nostalgia (60 years ago).
    Should be kept in London, not Swindon.

  10. david.coard says:

    If only the items could be donated to the Museum of the Home, in London.

    • ianVisits says:

      They could be – if someone stumps up the £50 million or so it would cost to build a huge extension to the museum to house the collection.

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