National Collections Centre

Coordinates: 51°30′44.1″N 1°48′46″W / 51.512250°N 1.81278°W / 51.512250; -1.81278
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National Collections Centre
Main entrance
National Collections Centre is located in Wiltshire
National Collections Centre
Location in Wiltshire
LocationWroughton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, England
Coordinates51°30′44.1″N 1°48′46″W / 51.512250°N 1.81278°W / 51.512250; -1.81278
TypeScience museum
DirectorIan Blatchford[citation needed] Edit this at Wikidata
Science Museum Group

The National Collections Centre, near Swindon, England, is the collections management facility for the Science Museum Group[1] and the Science Museum Library & Archives.


The Science Museum originally took ownership of the 545-acre former RAF Wroughton airfield in 1979, to be used as a storage facility for the museum's largest objects. A collection of approximately 35,000 objects is currently stored in six of the hangars and a purpose-built store. These include the world's first hovercraft, MRI scanners, computers, (de-activated) nuclear missiles and much more. In 2007 the collection of the Science Museum Library and Archives was also relocated to new facilities at the site.

In 2016 the site started to be featured in The Grand Tour, a motoring entertainment show. The show's three ex 'Top Gear' hosts use some of the roads surrounding the museum buildings as a vehicle test track each week.

In 2018 the site was rebranded as the National Collections Centre to reflect the use of the facility by the Science Museum Group as its primary collections management facility.

The 26,000m2 purpose-built facility was completed in 2021 which will eventually house and provide access to over 400,000 objects from the collection.


Collections management[edit]

The primary focus of the National Collections Centre is to conserve and manage the collections of the Science Museum Group. Over 35,000 large objects are currently housed at the site in the former aircraft hangars.

The Science Museum Group, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum had previously used Blythe House in London as storage, but had to move out after the government announced its intention to sell the building.[2] The Science Museum Group received £40m from the government to develop the National Collections Centre site and create a high-quality accessible facility for the management of the collection. In addition to storage, the building has conservation labs and research facilities.[3]

The facility will open to public tours, school and research visits in 2023.[4]

Some of the objects in the collection currently stored at the centre:

SRN1 Hovercraft

Library and Archives[edit]

The Science Museum Library & Archives collections are part of the Science Museum in London. Its holdings include original scientific, technical and medical works from the last 500 years. Part of this collection is stored at the Dana Research Centre and Library in London and it's free to use and open to the public (currently open by pre-booked appointments only on Thu-Fri, 10.00-17.00).[6]

The Science Museum Library was founded in 1883 as the Science Library of the South Kensington Museum. It was formed of collections from the South Kensington Educational Library and the library of the Museum of Practical Geology. In 1907 it moved to the Royal College of Science building. When the Science Museum gained its independence in 1909, the Science Library became its responsibility.[7]

In 1992 the Library joined with Imperial College London to form the Imperial College & Science Museum Libraries. Due to the increasing demand for space in South Kensington, about 85% of the collections and all of the archives moved to a specially adapted library building at Wroughton in 2007. The library in London closed in February 2014 and all of its collections were moved to Wroughton.[8]

The Library collections[edit]

The printed collections include rare books and first editions, journals from the 16th to the 20th centuries, Trade Literature, exhibition catalogues, British patents from 1617 to 1992 as well as over 85,000 books focussing on the history and social aspects of science, technology and medicine

The named archive collections include old original archives of some of the most famous and influential individuals and companies in the fields of science, medicine, engineering and industry. These include personal papers, photographs, glass plate negatives, company records, technical drawings and other original manuscripts from famous figures and organisations such as the engineering drawings of Charles Babbage and Barnes Wallis as well as papers relating to Donald Campbell and Hooper's car-building firm.

The MS archives are smaller collections of well over two thousand items, ranging in size from single items such as letters and notebooks to small collections comprising a number of items, which provide snapshots of the lives of those who created them. The material provides a wide-ranging source of subject information across the science, design and technology disciplines, as well as insights into the day-to-day lives of individuals and families[9]

Amongst the library and archives holdings are:


In April 2021 the Science Museum Group announced that it is targeting to achieve overall Net Zero / Carbon Neutrality by 2033. The National Collections Centre site hosts one of the UK's largest solar farms, completed in 2016, which is capable of generating close to 50GW of energy per year, four times more than that consumed by the Science Museum Group as a whole.[11][12]

Other activities at the site[edit]

The National Collections centre is regularly used for research and development, films and television, storage for other culture sector partners and testing of equipment for new technology and energy projects.[citation needed]

Inserts for the television series, The Grand Tour were filmed on the streets surrounding the museum from 2016 to 2019.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Science Museum Swindon: Unofficial Museum Guide". Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Spending review and autumn statement 2015". GOV.UK. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e Mark Brown (17 May 2019). "Science Museum plans 200 hectare site to show off lost treasures". The Guardian.
  4. ^ "National Collections Centre". Science Museum Group. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  5. ^ "Science Museum seeks partners to display its Trident, Comet and Constellation". Pilot Magazine. 16 April 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Dana Research Centre and Library". Science Museum. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  7. ^ Wyatt, Nicholas (2010). Science for the Nation. Palgrave-Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-23009-5.
  8. ^ "About Us : Access and registration". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Dana Research Centre and Library". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  10. ^ "The subversive encyclopedia." Archived 17 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine by John Underwood in Science Museum Library & Archives Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2010.
  11. ^ says, Jeremy Wingfield. "Swindon Solar Farm". Science Museum Blog. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  12. ^ "Science Museum Group announces Net Zero target and raft of new sustainability initiatives as museums prepare to reopen in May". Science Museum. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Where is The Grand Tour test track?". RadioTimes. Immediate Media Company Limited. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 15 July 2021.

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