Churchill’s Scientists, which was designed by Nissen Richards Studio, opens today and looks to tell the story of Churchill’s enthusiasm for science and the support he gave to scientists whose pioneering work helped secure victory in the Second World War and launch a post-war science renaissance in everything from nuclear power to X-ray crystallography.
Nissen Richards Studio was appointed to work on 2D and 3D interpretation through a tender process. It has worked on other Science Museum exhibitions including the Alan Turing exhibition Codebreaker, and Collider, which explained the work being carried out at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
Visitors to Churchill’s Scientists will learn how Robert Watson Watt invented radar, which gave the Royal Air Force a crucial advantage in the Battle of Britain and how Bernard Lovell created the world’s largest radio telescope.
There is a focus on the stories of the individual scientists and on Churchill’s fascination with science and technology. He was, for example one of the first people who learned how to fly and as a journalist he predicted the nuclear age.
The exhibition has been devised along chronological lines, beginning with the outbreak of the Second World War and discussing the role science played in the British war effort and how scientists worked alongside engineers and designers in fields including nutrition, the production of penicillin and antibiotics, sea warfare and the atomic bomb.
Original archive film footage, letters and photographs are featured as well as artifacts from the British atom bomb project Tube Alloys, and the high speed camera which was designed to capture the explosion of the first test bomb in 1952.
The second part of the exhibition explores scientific advances in post war Britain including molecular genetics, radio astronomy, nuclear power, nerve and brain function.
There are many personal effects of Churchill in the exhibition including the cigar he was smoking when he heard news of his election in 1951 and a Turbull and Asser-designed one-piece green velvet “siren suit” which he wore during air raids.
Nissen Richards Studio architect and senior designer Marie-Lise Oulmont says that “a spine-wall delineates both parts of the exhibition”, which she says have a very different look and feel.
The wartime section is formed of different rooms which the visitor weaves their way through. Raw MDF has been used as part of a minimal design which features accents of strong colour.
This is linked to the peacetime section via an “intermezzo” dark bridging section which focuses on Churchill’s writing post WWII before giving way to the peacetime zone which is “more open and colourful, with 1950’s vibrant tones ”.
Andrew Nahum, Lead Curator of Churchill’s Scientists says: “The exhibition shows how Churchill’s enormous wartime R&D programme kick-started Britain’s many post-war successes in fundamental scientific research.”
Churchill’s Scientists runs from 23 Januray 2015 – 03 March 2016 at the Science Museum Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD