Science Museum exhibit explores the Information Age

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The center of the exhibit is a giant radio tuner from the 1920s

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If the 19th and 20th centuries were the Transportation Age, then the 21st century is the Information Age. Like most other ages, it didn't suddenly leap into being with the arrival of the Web or the smartphone – it has a history going back more than 200 years. The Science Museum in London is exploring this history in a new permanent exhibit called "Information Age: Six Networks That Changed Our World," which was recently opened by Queen Elizabeth II when she sent the first tweet by a British monarch.

The Information Age exhibit replaces the museum’s famous Shipping Gallery, which was closed in 2012 and now exists only in a virtual form. Where the Shipping Gallery presented the naval engineering and maritime culture that connected the world during the Industrial Revolution, the Information Age presents how communications technologies allowed the people of the world to talk to one another, doing so using the interactive media that is so characteristic of the internet era. And to show that the two ages are part of a single history, the Information Age includes a section of the first transatlantic cable, which was laid down by that doyen of the Shipping Gallery and the then-largest vessel afloat, the Great Eastern.

The exhibit was opened by the Queen as she made her first tweet in front of 600 guests. It read, “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.”

The Information Age exhibit covers 2,500 sq/m (26,909 sq/ft) and was designed by Universal Design Studio. It’s divided into six areas covering the telegraph; the telephone, radio and television broadcasting; satellite communications; computer networks; and mobile communications.

According to the Science Museum, the 800 objects from the museum's collection and state-of-the-art interactive displays tell the personal stories of the people involved in creating the Information Age, including witnesses and participants in the historic Coronation television broadcast of 1953, the first BBC radio broadcast, and even reminiscences of the people who worked on the Enfield Telephone Exchange, the last manual exchange in Britain.

In addition to the transatlantic telegraph cable, the exhibit includes computers, smartphones, a switchboard, and a bright yellow call box from Cameroon. But centerpiece is the six-meter (20-ft) high copper and wood aerial tuning inductor from Rugby Radio Station, which was originally built in the 1920s for the General Post Office to carry radiotelephony between the United Kingdom and America, and was the most powerful radio transmitter in the world at that time.

The Information Age opens to the public on October 25.

The video below shows the tuning inductor being assembled.

View gallery - 8 images

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