Alex Tyrrell, the Museum's Head of Exhibitions, addresses the recent debate sparked by the ‘What sex is your brain?’ exhibit in our Who Am I? gallery.
Alex Tyrrell, Head of Exhibitions, Science Museum:
'There has been a lively debate this week about our Who am I? gallery, which explores the wealth of scientific ideas that inform our understanding of human identity. The display in question is titled Boy or Girl? and features stories, objects and research including studies about sexual preference and behaviour, tests to see the sex of an unborn baby, and a section looking at gender identity and the evidence for biological differences between the sexes.
Much of the discussion centred around an interactive quiz called ‘What sex is your brain?’. Although part of the Who am I? gallery was refreshed six years ago, this particular interactive dates back to the launch of the original gallery 16 years ago in the year 2000.
As with all Science Museum exhibitions, the team worked extensively with internationally recognised academics and experts, including geneticists, psychologists, neuroscientists and medical professionals, to develop the gallery content two decades ago. At the time Who am I? opened multiple experts and our collaborators felt the exhibition content was a fair and responsible representation of the latest scientific research about human identity, including questions of sex and gender. An external advisory panel was also fully supportive of our approach to engaging our visitors.
However, the quiz is based on research from the 1990s that is now regarded as outdated. Scientific accuracy is of paramount importance to the Museum and we recognise that with fast-moving areas of research, scientific consensus can and does shift. We are now talking to leading experts in neuroscience and clinical psychology to consider how, with the resources available, we can ensure this display is updated as soon as possible to represent the latest scientific evidence. The Science Museum is currently undergoing the most significant transformation in its history, creating ambitious new galleries, learning zones, public spaces and visitor facilities, including two major new galleries that will open this autumn—Wonderlab: The Statoil Gallery and Mathematics: The Winton Gallery.'