The first of 300,000 artefacts from the collection of the Science Museum have arrived at their new Swindon home.
The new National Collections Centre at the former RAF Wroughton Airfield provides the stable environmental conditions essential for the long-term preservation and care of its internationally significant collection.
At 90 metres wide and 300 metres long (295 by 984 feet) the facility is equivalent in size to 600 double-decker buses.
It features conservation laboratories, research areas and photography studios alongside a vast storage hall with 30,000 metres of shelving ready to house the collection.
One of the first objects to arrive was a model of the influenza virus – magnified 5 million times – made for William Graeme Laver, a virologist working on an influenza treatment.
Another early arrival was a toy duck used by scientists to identify potential landing sites on the remarkably duck-shaped comet 67P/ Churyumov–Gerasimenko for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
After a ten year, 6.4 billion km journey the Rosetta spacecraft arrived at the comet in 2014 and the duck was used by Open University scientists when discussing where the Philae lander should touch down on the comet.
Other objects recently unpacked include lancets presented to vaccination pioneer Edward Jenner, spectacles created by Snapchat and a Thomas the Tank Engine toy, made locally in Swindon.
Hundreds of larger historic objects already housed at the National Collections Centre – including an inert Polaris missile, a revolutionary Leyland Titan double-decker bus and a record-breaking balloon gondola used to study the stratosphere – will also be moved into the building, increasing access to these incredible items.
These larger items will be housed in the vast open space which is covered by a colourful floor grid.
Designed by Sam Jacob Studio, the floor grid enables the museum to more easily organise and store these huge items. The grid, together with other colourful architectural additions, will help people find their way around the huge facility.
Each square in the grid is 3.6 metres by 3.6 metres – not much smaller than the average UK living room – which gives a sense of just how big the space is.
The collection move will finish in early 2024, when the facility will open for public tours, school and research visits.
The new collection management facility was designed by the architects GWPA and constructed by Kier.
Pictured: A model of the influenza virus – magnified 5 million times – made for William Graeme Laver, a virologist working on an influenza treatment