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Science Museum to reveal remarkable 500-year history of robots in new exhibition

  • Opening in February 2017, Robots will explore humanity’s 500-year quest to recreate ourselves in mechanised form
  • Over 100 robots to create most significant collection of humanoid robots ever displayed 
  • Join the Kickstarter campaign to rebuild Eric, the UK's first robot 

8 February – 3 September 2017, Science Museum, London
Admission: £15 adults, £13 concessions (Free entry for under 7s; family tickets available)
Tickets available in the Museum or via sciencemuseum.org.uk/robots
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


Throughout history, artists and scientists have sought to understand what it means to be human. The Science Museum’s new Robots exhibition, opening in February 2017, will explore this very human obsession to recreate ourselves, revealing the remarkable 500-year story of humanoid robots.

Featuring a unique collection of over 100 robots, from a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs, this exhibition will enable visitors to discover the cultural, historical and technological context of humanoid robots. Visitors will be able to interact with some of the 12 working robots on display. Among many other highlights will be an articulated iron manikin from the 1500s, Cygan, a 2.4m tall 1950s robot with a glamorous past, and one of the first walking bipedal robots.  

Robots have been at the heart of popular culture since the word ‘robot’ was first used in 1920, but their fascinating story dates back many centuries. Set in five different periods and places, this exhibition will explore how robots and society have been shaped by religious belief, the industrial revolution, 20th century popular culture and dreams about the future.

The quest to build ever more complex robots has transformed our understanding of the human body, and today robots are becoming increasingly human, learning from mistakes and expressing emotions. In the exhibition, visitors will go behind the scenes to glimpse recent developments from robotics research, exploring how roboticists are building robots that resemble us and interact in human-like ways. The exhibition will end by asking visitors to imagine what a shared future with robots might be like. Robots has been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with a £100,000 grant from the Collecting Cultures programme.

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group said: ‘This exhibition explores the uniquely human obsession of recreating ourselves, not through paint or marble but in metal. Seeing robots through the eyes of those who built or gazed in awe at them reveals much about humanity’s hopes, fears and dreams.’

‘The latest in our series of ambitious, blockbuster exhibitions, Robots explores the wondrously rich culture, history and technology of humanoid robotics. Last year we moved gigantic spacecraft from Moscow to the Museum, but this year we will bring a robot back to life.’

Today the Science Museum launched a Kickstarter campaign to rebuild Eric, the UK’s first robot. Originally built in 1928 by Captain Richards & A.H. Reffell, Eric was one of the world’s first robots. Built less than a decade after the word robot was first used, he travelled the globe with his makers and amazed crowds in the UK, US and Europe, before disappearing forever.

The Science Museum’s first ever Kickstarter campaign aims to rebuild Eric and save him for the nation as part of the Museum’s permanent collection. Eric will go on public display in October 2016 for a month and next year will be featured in the Robots exhibition. Support from Kickstarter backers will also enable Eric to travel the world as part of the exhibition’s international tour, just like the original Eric did 90 years ago. The Kickstarter campaign will run until 16 June with the aim of raising £35,000. Find out more and join the campaign to rebuild Eric at sciencemuseum.org.uk/eric.

Ben Russell, Lead Curator for Robots said: ‘I’ve always been fascinated by robots, and it’s only now that we are able to share their fascinating story at the Science Museum. As the UK’s first robot, Eric holds a unique place in our history. He is everything we now imagine a robot to be – a talking, moving mechanical person – and with your support on Kickstarter we’ll bring him back to life for future generations to enjoy.’ 

The Robots exhibition will open at the Science Museum on 8 February 2017 and run until 3 September 2017. For further information or to purchase exhibition tickets visit sciencemuseum.org.uk/robots.

Ends

For further information and images please contact Will Stanley in the Science Museum Press Office on 020 7942 4429 or email will.stanley@sciencemuseum.ac.uk.

Notes to Editors

Rebuilding Eric: The UK’s First Robot 

The Science Museum’s first Kickstarter project, Rebuilding Eric: The UK’s First Robot, launched on 10 May and will end on Thursday 16 June. The project aims to raise £35,000, which will enable the Museum to rebuild Eric and add him to the Museum’s permanent collection. Eric will go on temporary public display in the Museum in October 2016 for a month. In 2017 he will feature in the Robots exhibition both in the UK and on an international tour.

To support our Kickstarter project to rebuild Eric visit sciencemuseum.org.uk/eric for more information, including on the rewards available for backers. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter using #RebuildEric.

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over three million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement. More information can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk.

About the HLF

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. http://www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery

About Discover South Kensington
Discover South Kensington brings together the Science Museum and other leading cultural and educational organisations to promote innovation and learning. South Kensington is the home of science, arts and inspiration. Discovery is at the core of what happens here and there is so much to explore every day. discoversouthken.com