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Science Museum Group Launches First Podcast to Reveal Extraordinary Stories Hidden in Your Home

  • A Brief History of Stuff features curious stories about the things around you
  • Explore the past, present and future of the everyday stuff in your home with our host, BBC Radio 5 Live's Nihal Arthanayake
  • Delve into the remarkable stories behind bath toys, sticky tape, vacuum cleaners, the microwave oven, menstrual products, microphones, rulers and tin cans
  • New episodes published every fortnight until early August 2021
Rubber duck image used to promote A brief History of Stuff podcast

The Science Museum Group has published its first podcast, A Brief History of Stuff. The podcast explores the extraordinary stories behind ordinary objects found in the home and is available on all major platforms, including Apple, Google and Spotify.

In each episode, listeners will discover the past, present and future of an everyday item in their home – from bath toys to sticky tape and vacuum cleaners to the microwave oven – delving into its surprising history and uncovering how these ordinary items changed science and our world. The podcast is inspired by the Science Museum Group Collection, a vast and varied collection of 7.3 million items which illustrates the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives.

Hosted by BBC Radio 5 Live's Nihal Arthanayake, A Brief History of Stuff features experts and enthusiasts — including an air traffic controller, beachcomber and museum curators — who share remarkable stories about the stuff around you. Experts from across the Science Museum Group’s five museums will reveal fascinating insights into the item’s past, while a varied line-up of enthusiasts describe their interesting interactions with these items today. Each episode ends with a discussion about what the future might hold for the item.  

The first episode – which explores how 30,000 bath toys washed overboard during a storm helped scientists uncover the mysteries behind ocean currents – is now available. In this episode, Science Museum curator Alex Rose describes the epic ocean voyage taken by these ordinary bath toys, while beachcomber Tracey Williams shares her interesting finds on the Cornish coast. Listeners will hear stories of flotsam and the global beachcomber network and discover more about the ocean and our impact on it. This episode was inspired by Friendly Floatee bath toys in the Science Museum Group Collection. 

Future episodes will explore how the search for a death ray led to the microwave oven, the invention of tin cans and comfort food, the history of menstrual products and how rulers and standardisation helped usher in the modern world. Listeners will also hear why the microphone changed how music is performed, how sticky tape and curiosity led to a Nobel Prize and why vacuum cleaners changed our homes forever. Episodes in series one will be released fortnightly over the coming months.

Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, said: 'I’m thrilled listeners across the globe can now discover fascinating stories behind the everyday items we are familiar with at home, even more so now with the pandemic. A Brief History of Stuff was inspired by the Science Museum Group Collection and I hope this intimate form of storytelling inspires listeners to explore more of the incredible items we care for.’ 

Nihal Arthanayake, host of A Brief History of Stuff, said: ‘Until now I’d never thought about the stories behind our stuff, so it’s been a real privilege to chat to so many wonderful people and put my questions to the experts from the Science Museum Group. I hope you enjoy listening to A Brief History of Stuff as much as I’ve enjoyed hosting it.’

Notes to Editors

A Brief History of Stuff was co-produced by the Science Museum Group and Storythings.

Listeners can subscribe for free to A Brief History of Stuff on all major podcast platforms (including Apple, Google and Spotify) to be the first to hear new episodes. Further information and episode transcripts are available via Audiences can also discover more stories about the everyday objects around them.

Part of the Science Museum Group