Science Projects Limited

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Science Projects Limited is a company with charitable status founded by Stephen Pizzey in 1986 to aid public understanding of science through interactive exhibits. It operates The Observatory Science Centre in the south east of England at the former home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory which moved its telescopes there in the 1950s. Science Projects operates travelling exhibitions from its design and production workshop in London which specialises in the development of hands-on exhibits.

History[edit]

The Ontario Science Centre in Canada had already instigated its 'Science Circus' which had travelled to a number of countries, including a visit to the Science Museum in London. It proved popular but was still constrained by being an exhibition which required a museum or other venue in which to operate.

Science Projects' idea was to have the building travel with the exhibition as well, creating a travelling science centre. To test out the theory, an Omni System tent was hired and some exhibits from the Exploratory in Bristol (now At-Bristol) borrowed for an Open University open day in Milton Keynes in 1986. The result was a success and provided the impetus to take the next step.

The Discovery Dome[edit]

The Discovery Dome in Belfast

With funding from grants, the rest of the year was spent progressing the plans for what would become the 'Discovery Dome'. In February 1987 Science Projects was incorporated as a charitable company and moved into a small workshop in West London. The first handful of staff were employed and manufacturing of the 50 or so exhibits began.

The Discovery Dome was a success, attracting over 100,000 [1] visitors in its first year. It led to teachers basing classroom projects on topics covered and requests to borrow some of the exhibits. From this interest, the idea of ScienceWorks arose. This consisted of curriculum-based exhibitions available for hire to schools which started operation in 1989 and continues today.

Glasgow Dome of Discovery[edit]

Meanwhile, Science Projects was developing a new exhibition in Glasgow, intended to form the basis of a science centre for the 1990 City of Culture celebrations. After searching for a location, the South Rotunda - a domed building on the former garden festival site, was identified. The Glasgow Dome of Discovery opened to the public on 6 April with over 50 interactive exhibits, a workshop and a small shop.

Travelling exhibitions[edit]

In 1991 the company was commissioned by the British Council to design and build a travelling exhibition in the style of the Discovery Dome exhibits. Named Exploring Science, this exhibition toured the Middle East and North Africa. It proved to be popular and another version was commissioned for permanent use in Saudi Arabia.

A few years later, the success of this exhibition inspired Science Projects to create a new series of travelling exhibitions for the UK. They used the same name of 'Exploring Science'. Over the next few years 'ScienceWorks' expanded as exhibits were reviewed in light of the National Curriculum and more contract work was undertaken along with training and consultancy programmes.

Science Centres[edit]

The Observatory Science Centre at Herstmonceux

The company had the resources to implement an earlier idea for a network of small science centres drawing on the resources and expertise of the exhibit development workshop. One site which had been of interest for a long time was Herstmonceux, in East Sussex, the former home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Agreement for a lease was reached in early 1995. At the same time an historic medieval church became available in Norwich, and plans were progressed to establish the Inspire Discovery Centre.

Creating exhibits for others[edit]

Science Projects continues to design, develop and build exhibits for science centres, museums and visitor centres around the world. They are no longer confined to science and technology and Science Projects has produced exhibitions interpreting subjects from art [2] to economics for the Bank of England [3].

In 2009, the company moved its main workshop and offices from Hammersmith to a larger building in Acton which is more suited to its production, design and administration requirements.

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Science Projects history pages