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Art commission announced as construction begins at National Collections Centre

Today the Science Museum Group invited submissions from contemporary artists for a new public artwork, as construction began on an accessible home for the Science Museum Group Collection. 

For this major four-year art commission the Science Museum Group, in collaboration with contemporary arts commissioners Foreground, is seeking creative responses to its ambitious project to construct a new collection management facility at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire. 

Community participation is at the core of the art commission, which aims to engage local communities with the National Collections Centre and the scale and significance of the Science Museum Group Collection. Proposals for the £70,000 art commission are encouraged to be experimental and can be submitted until 4 August 2019. The winning artist is expected to start in late 2019, developing their part-time project to culminate in 2023 when the new facility opens.   

The Science Museum Group has previously commissioned and worked with a wide variety of contemporary artists including James Capper, Nikhil Chopra, Tacita Dean, Marlene Dumas, Antony Gormley, Thomas Heatherwick, Cornelia Parker, Marc Quinn, Conrad Shawcross and Yinka Shonibare.

Construction begins for a new collection management facility at the National Collections Centre
Construction begins on the new collection management facility at the National Collections Centre

This new facility will transform how the Science Museum Group manages, cares for and shares its internationally significant collection, ensuring these historic objects continue to inspire future generations. Over 300,000 objects will be studied, digitised and transported from west London to their new home in Wiltshire. With engaging short films, long-form stories, online tools and hundreds of objects published online each month, the public can already discover more of the collection than ever before. 

Construction of the new facility recently began at the National Collections Centre. This sustainable, operationally efficient facility will provide stable conditions for the long-term preservation and care of the collection. At 90m wide and 300m long, the facility is equivalent in size to 600 double decker buses and will feature a spacious storage hall, conservation laboratories, research spaces and photography studios. 

Once construction is complete in spring 2020, over 300,000 items from the Science Museum Group Collection will be moved into their new home in a process that will last two years. From 2023, the facility will welcome thousands of school children, researchers and members of the public, giving residents of Wiltshire and beyond unprecedented access to this incredible collection.

The Science Museum Group is creating a new collection management facility at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire thanks to £40 million part-funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As part of the £150 million Blythe House Project, collections from the Science Museum Group, the British Museum and the V&A will move from Blythe House in west London to purpose-built state-of-the-art facilities designed to best preserve these national collections.

Arts Minister Michael Ellis said: ‘Our £150 million Blythe House operation will help provide superb, new storage facilities for our national collections. I am delighted that the Science Museum Group is putting public access at the heart of its plans for the National Collections Centre.  

Our history helps us understand who we are and where we came from and this exciting art project will further increase public engagement with the Science Museum Group’s world-class collection.’

Jonathan Newby, Managing Director of the Science Museum Group said: ‘Thrillingly we are in the midst of revolutionising public access to one of the most significant scientific collections in the world. 

Enhanced public access is at the heart of our vision for the National Collections Centre and I am delighted construction is underway for the collection’s new home. Soon Wiltshire residents and audiences across the globe will be able to explore more of our incredible collection than ever before.’

Katy Barrett, Curator of Art Collections, Science Museum said: ‘This is an exciting moment to launch a participatory art commission as construction begins at the National Collections Centre. We can’t wait to see what different perspectives artists will bring to our site, collection and local community through this art commission.’

Simon Morrissey, Director of Foreground said: ‘We are delighted to be collaborating with the Science Museum Group on this first art commission for the National Collections Centre. We look forward to helping build active relationships with audiences and communities and producing an innovative commission for this rich and fascinating site’.