Visit our new exhibition on alchemy, check out our research guide on family history and follow us on Twitter

Library & Archive News

Science Museum to Create New Research Centre

The Science Museum is to create a new research centre at its South Kensington site. The centre will provide a world-class environment for academic research and a greater connection between the museum’s objects and its library and archive collections.

Bringing together the museum’s thriving Research and Public History Department and access to its library and archive collections, the research centre will open in the autumn of 2015. It aims to increase the use and understanding of these outstanding collections by academics and lay researchers as well as providing a welcoming, contemporary and light-filled environment with a mix of offices, a quiet reading area and open shelving for printed material.

The research centre will replace the Science Museum Library, which will close on 3 February 2014, currently situated on Imperial College London’s South Kensington Campus. The move follows an agreement between the two institutions that will free up the current space for the College to use for its own activities while paving the way for the development of the new research centre.

The Library & Archives Wroughton facility will be closed to all readers from 3 February to 29 April 2014, after which there will be limited services.

Please see our press release for more information.

Changes to Library & Archive Services

We are reducing services at our Wroughton Library and Archives to allow staff to concentrate on collections management and cataloguing in a more efficient and focussed way.

  • Our open days at Wroughton will now be limited to those that were busiest before: Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • This is by appointment only.
  • The driver service will still be available on a Tuesday.
  • We still welcome group visits at Wroughton, but your group or society should have a direct interest in using our Library & Archive for your own research. We can only provide this service on Wednesdays and you must book at least a month in advance. Your visit will be focussed on how to research and use our collections and we will highlight which material is most appropriate for your needs.
  • We will now respond to research enquiries within 20 working days. We will limit our responses to those enquiries that concern our Library & Archive Collections only. If you have other enquiries concerning museum collections please click here

Library & Archives Newsletter

Read our latest newsletter to discover more about our alchemy exhibition and learn how alchemists concealed secret meanings within their books and illustrations.

If you want to subscribe to future issues, please email

Signs, Symbols, Secrets: An Illustrated Guide to Alchemy

A Library & Archives Exhibition in the Science Museum, 
27 April 2012 - 14 January 2014

The quest for the philosophers’ stone, a substance that transforms base metals into silver and gold, heal sickness, and unlock the mysteries of God and nature was a major preoccupation of the early modern world.

This exhibition displays 22 of the most striking images from the rich collection of the Science Museum’s Library & Archives. Dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, these books and manuscripts reveal the power and intricacy of alchemical art, whilst allowing us to attempt an interpretation of the hidden meanings behind the symbols. At the heart of the exhibition is a newly discovered manuscript: a Ripley scroll. These rare scrolls include some of the most complex and fascinating alchemical imagery in existence.

For more information, click here 

Uncovering Your Ancestors

In early 2011 we produced a printed guide to Science Museum collections for family historians, Uncovering Your Ancestors.  We have distributed copies to family history societies up and down the country and to relevant libraries and archives. The guide draws together relevant resources in the Library, Archives and Museum and is illustrated with examples of personal and business history. Feedback has been very positive, as one family history society said ‘I have been looking through [Uncovering your ancestors] and found [it] most interesting and I am sure so will the other group members. The different areas of family history to research will be most useful to us and some new ideas to uncover as well is always exciting. It looks an interesting place to visit.’  You can now get your own free copy. Just Contact us, and we’ll send you one.

Twitter and Facebook

The Library and Archives team have their own Twitter site, Galileo’s Balls. Their regular tweets relate ‘on this day’ events with an item from the Archives. Read about Mrs Benz’s first long-distance automobile trip, a meeting between Lady Lovelace and Charles Babbage, the destruction of the Crystal Palace by fire and the price of dragon’s blood in 1762. Sign up and follow regular tweets at

Follow us on Facebook

Library history

Read about the history of the Science Museum Library in the new book Science for the Nation: perspectives on the History of the Science Museum which was published as part of the Science Museum’s centenary celebrations.