Although the previous science museum was free to enter, Thinktank charges an entrance fee. In 2005 the museum underwent a £2 million upgrade, including the installation of a planetarium. By 2007 it had received over 1 million visitors. In April 2012, Birmingham Museums Trust took over governance and management responsibility for Thinktank, along with eight other sites.
In March 2015, a new "Spitire gallery" opened, relating the displayed aircraft to their production, locally. Among the new exhibits are a leather flying helmet previously belonging to Helen Kerly, one of only two British civilian women commended for flying during the Second World War.
Austin Seven Tourer car, Registration number XO 4133. Built in 1923, owned by the factory until 1944 before passing to private ownership, given to the museum in 1975. It is the ninth oldest example of the ~300 remaining.
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).
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.
0: The past
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.
1: The balcony
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.
1: The balcony
This is a new gallery focused on the Spitfire is now open. 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
2: The Present
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.
The Street is designed to show visitors how science affects their everyday life, and how objects they see around them work.
2: The Present
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.
2: The Present
Medicine Matters is an exhibition that contains displays on modern medicine and medical breakthroughs, includi current medical practices and the moral dilemmas that occur, while other exhibits cover DNA, epilepsy, genetics, vaccination and personal health.
3: The Future
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. These is also a "Talking Point" area about future projections by scientists, as well as "Create an Alien" and "RoboThespian" exhibits.
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.
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. In its first year it received 60,000 visitors, and in August 2014 it received 17,000 visitors.
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 as part of a British Association of Planetaria conference.