New display on genetics and identity unveiled at Science Museum



The Science Museum today announced the opening of a new free display that radically challenges people’s understanding of genetics and sense of human identity.

The new display -  Switch to a different you? - opens on Thursday 6 September in the flagship Who am I? gallery in the Wellcome Wing and takes a closer look at ground-breaking research that reveals the hidden ‘switches’ that turn our genes on and off in response to our environments.

The new display is informed by ground-breaking research from the ENCODE study (the Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements) published in Nature journal WWW.NATURE.COM/NATURE

Visitors will be able to see an array of objects and case studies relating to how DNA ‘dances’, identical twins, and potential new treatments.

Key objects include a first-of-its-kind 3D model of the DNA interactions revealed by ENCODE and a piece of silk printed with DNA sequences from ENCODE research. If all the DNA analysed by the ENCODE scientists were to be printed in the same way, the silk would have to be 16,000km long!

Other items on display include a testing kit used to determine if twins are identical and a biometric camera that snaps faces and irises. Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI often test kit like this on identical twins to see how well it can spot subtle differences in physical identity.

Kat Nilsson, Head of Contemporary Science said, “The Who am I? gallery asks some big questions which we know fascinate our visitors, such as what makes each of us unique? This exciting new display reflects our ongoing work to engage visitors in the latest science research stories.”

The Switch to a different you? exhibit will be on display in the Who am I? gallery from 6 September-5 December 2012. Members of the public are invited to witness an aerial silk spectacle – the Dance of DNA – specially created for the launch at 1.30pm on 6 September.

The Who am I? gallery presents the latest genetics research and brain science through a mix of fascinating objects, hands-on multimedia exhibits and contemporary artworks.

The Who am I? gallery is supported by the Wellcome Trust, GlaxoSmithKline and Life Technologies Foundation.


ALL images are under embargo for 18.00 Wednesday 5 September

Following a press conference hosted at the Science Museum on Wednesday 5 September, there will be a selection of high res images of the new display case and the Dance of DNA available to download from the ENCODE folder at the following address:

Username: nmsipress
Password: press

Science Museum Visitor Information:

Science Museum
Exhibition Road

Opening hours:
Every day Monday – Sunday till 18.00. / 0870 870 4868

Twitter – @sciencemuseum
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For further information please contact, Science Museum Press Office – or Tel: 0207 942 4364 @LauraSingleton3

Notes to Editors

1. Science Museum

The Science Museum’s collections form an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical change from the past. Aiming to be the best place in the world for people to enjoy science, the Science Museum makes sense of the science that shapes our lives, sparking curiosity, releasing creativity and changing the future by engaging people of all generations and backgrounds in science, engineering, medicine, technology, design and enterprise.

2. The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

3. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies and is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. GSK has a targeted community investment programme working with health and education organisations in almost 100 countries. GSK is one of the largest charitable givers in the FTSE 100. For more information please visit:

4. Life Technologies Foundation

Life Technologies Foundation is dedicated to recognizing the power of each scientist’s contribution to improving the human condition. By teaming with researchers across countries and cultures, we strive to demystify the world of life science, empower today’s children to become tomorrow’s scientific leaders and deepen society’s appreciation of science.