Scrapped but not forgotten
July 23, 2013 1:21 PM   Subscribe

The Science Museum in London closed their Shipping Galleries in 2012, having been open for almost 50 years. But in case you missed it, here's a narrated short virtual tour, as it looked then.

Opened in 1963, the Shipping Galleries were home to 1800 maritime exhibits, including many incredibly large and detailed ship models; such as the original builders' model of Brunel's infamous SS Great Eastern, the biggest ship in the world by far when she was built in 1858. There was also the first marine gas turbine, working engine models and many other unique exhibits of maritime history.

Before it was closed to make room for new exhibits, 275 laser scans collected 2 billion precise measurements, and now the data is being used to reconstruct an incredibly accurate virtual model of the Shipping Galleries. This tour is just an early taster, and uses a mere 10% of the collected data. [via]
posted by ArkhanJG (14 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
That is at the same time beautiful and very very ghostly.
posted by jeribus at 1:43 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

That was an amazing place to visit.
posted by unSane at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2013

I'm really down about that, I love that gallery. Lived at the Science Museum with my little ones before they went to school, spend many an hour in that hall. Preserving a virtual reality version while they put those models in the attic is unsatisfactory
posted by C.A.S. at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by frijole at 1:50 PM on July 23, 2013

One of the things I loved about the Science Museum when I went there was the various galleries that had been untouched for decades. The mathematics hall, circa the 1960s, had a bunch of models showing geometrical solids, with plain typed notes alongside them. There were exhibits that seemed 1980s, with touch screen computers being the big thing; others had the post-Exploratorium interactive components. There was a postmodern gallery where everything was web-based and interactive. It was like visiting a museum exhibit about the history of science museums, and that meta-aspect was fascinating. Not to say that some of those old galleries weren't boring as shit.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:01 PM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Great. Now I'm feeling wistfulness over the non-existence of a place I never knew existed.

For people on the other side of the pond, there's an impressive (though much smaller) collection of model ships in the basement of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:32 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Shipping Gallery is going to be replaced by InformationAge, six collections of related objects that will be a "celebration of information and communication technologies".

To be honest, this is probably overdue. The boat collection would be best served at the maritime museum, or various other sites around the UK. After all, the models aren't being disposed off, they are being put into storage.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:45 PM on July 23, 2013

> The Shipping Gallery is going to be replaced by InformationAge, six collections of related objects that will be a "celebration of information and communication technologies".

> the models aren't being disposed off, they are being put into storage

That sums up everything I hate about modern museums. Remember when museums used to have old stuff? And lots of it?

The last time I visited a museum it was nine tenths packaging, and only a tiny fraction of its stuff was on display. I would happily scrap all the display boards and architectural space and white surfaces and interactive exhibits for rooms and rooms piled high with OLD STUFF.
posted by EnterTheStory at 4:18 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh man, I remember this. It was right in at the back and ridiculous. A diorama of the Port of London and even better a display of things which get delivered to the port: bottles of bleach, rope, other things!
posted by Damienmce at 6:07 PM on July 23, 2013

Things we get from ports! The 3D model is very spooky. Sort of worrying when places you know from real life cease to exist and become entirely virtual. Not to self, start weird nostalgia internet business scanning 3D models of schools to sell to people today when they're in their dotage, sitting in retirement homes connected to Oculus Rift.
posted by Damienmce at 6:19 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm glad I saw the gallery before its demise. It seemed like it was designed to teach marine architecture students the history of ship design. The virtual fly through was pretty, but will the finished version allow one to look closely at an individual item and read its caption?
posted by monotreme at 8:31 PM on July 23, 2013

This is sad also because the Shipping Gallery had a few benches where you could eat your lunch in complete peace, even during the school holidays. Lovely boat models and I've napped in there on a bench with my daughter asleep in her stroller, in the days when I never got any sleep. Always deserted.

'Little detailed models of really big things inside glass cases' is something that children don't even bother to compute any more.

At least there are some fantastic galleries still open in the Science Museum that are also usually deserted. 'Glimpses of Medical History' is a huge collection of life-size mannequins doing stuff like biting on leather gags while being held down by other mannequins as their diseased legs are sawn off.
posted by colie at 2:24 AM on July 24, 2013

I hadn't heard this until right now, and I'm rather sad about it. I'm actually in London for the summer and was looking forward to visiting this gallery -- it was a favorite of a friend of mine mostly because of the quiet, the loving attention put into the gallery, and the fact that it really did feel untouched by time. It was very obviously a labor of love, and that's why he and I love(d) it so much.

Seconding the recommendation of Glimpses of Medical History, which is delightful if only because of the utter disjointedness of the displays. They definitely aren't arranged according to any sort of reasonable timeline or categorization...
posted by naturalog at 6:30 AM on July 24, 2013

A continuing annoyance of mine is the way that so many museums make no effort to enable virtual visitations. It's not the same as being there, but why can't I virtually travel through the Smithsonian, for example, taking my time to view all the artifacts, read all the placards, and watch all the motion pictures? I would pay to do that.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 4:54 PM on July 24, 2013

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