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Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum - A Birmingham Gem!

Thinktank is a Science Museum in Millennium Point, Eastside, Birmingham that opened in 2001. It replaced the Newhall Street museum.

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum opened in 2001 at Millennium Point located near Curzon Street in Eastside, Birmingham. It replaced the previous Birmingham Museum of Science & Industry which was on Newhall Street in the Jewellery Quarter until 1997. Most of the contents were moved over such as the City of Birmingham locomotive, and the last remaining City tram from the network that closed in 1953. They also have Boulton & Watt's Smethwick Engine inside. The Thinktank Science Garden opened in 2012 with the completion of Eastside City Park.

What we found out

What difference has it made

Passions

History & heritage, Civic pride, Photography
Travel & tourism, People & community

Project dates

17 Jun 2020 - On-going

Contact (for more details)

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History & heritage
16 Sep 2020 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

Spitfire and Hurricane at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum

It's the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, so Elliott is taking a look back to his 2013 visit to Thinktank where he saw a Spitfire and Hurricane hanging from the ceiling of the museum. Sptifire's were built at Castle Bromwich, while Hurricane's over at the Austin motor car factory in Longbridge. The Battle of Britain started in September 1940.

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Spitfire and Hurricane at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum





It's the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, so Elliott is taking a look back to his 2013 visit to Thinktank where he saw a Spitfire and Hurricane hanging from the ceiling of the museum. Sptifire's were built at Castle Bromwich, while Hurricane's over at the Austin motor car factory in Longbridge. The Battle of Britain started in September 1940.


September 2020, marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain. Which took place over the English Channel between the RAF and the Luftwaffe. The official dates of the battle was the 10th July until the 31st October 1940. Did you know that many of the planes that fought in the battle were built right here in Birmingham!

The Supermarine Spitfire were built by Vickers Armstrong in Castle Bromwich. While the Hawker Hurricane at the Austin motor car factory in Longbridge.

 

Photos below taken on a visit to Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum during April 2013.

Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX

The Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX was built in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham. The planes were built between 1938, and throughout the Second World War of 1939 to 1945. Vickers Armstrong had built over 11,000 planes there. The Spitfire was the most famous British fighter plane of the Second World War.

This plane was labelled HK A and ML 427. And could be seen above the Move It section of the museum (at the front) from the balcony views of We Made It.

Behind the Spitfire was the Hurricane.

 

Hawker Hurricane Mark IV

To the back was a Hawker Hurricane Mark IV. This plane was known for shooting down over 60% of enemy aircraft during the 1940 Battle of Britain. Around 300 Hurricane's were built at the Austin motor car factory in Longbridge in Birmingham. The Hurricane ended up being overshadowed by the more famous Spitfire. They were built from 1937 until 1944.

This plane was to the back and wasn't as easy to see as the Spitfire. Labelled JX R. With 395 at the rear end.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

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24 Aug 2020 - Elliott Brown
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We Made It on The Balcony at Thinktank

On Level 1 at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum was from about 2013 an exhibition on the mezzanine floor called We Made It. "What's a Cow got to do with a Car?" asks the leaflet from 2013. You could see a dissected Riley Elf (a bit like a Mini). Birmingham was known as the Workshop of the World. Gadgets used at home. Nuts and bolts. Tins and things.

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We Made It on The Balcony at Thinktank





On Level 1 at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum was from about 2013 an exhibition on the mezzanine floor called We Made It. "What's a Cow got to do with a Car?" asks the leaflet from 2013. You could see a dissected Riley Elf (a bit like a Mini). Birmingham was known as the Workshop of the World. Gadgets used at home. Nuts and bolts. Tins and things.


We Made It

The official Thinktank Website has info on We Made It here. Located on Level 1 at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum (the mezzanine floor).

Information below courtesy of the Birmingham Museums Trust:

We Made It features more than 20 interactive exhibits that show just how and why Birmingham became known as ‘the workshop of the world’. Visitors are taken on a journey from raw materials to finished product, demonstrating how everyday goods are produced.
The journey is illustrated by around 1200 intriguing objects from Birmingham’s world-renowned manufacturing and natural science collections, and contemporary products made or designed in Birmingham. Find out what links a car and a cow, what makes treasure like jewellery valuable, why we use certain types of packaging, and how products are held together.
 
The gallery contains four distinct areas, each focussing on an area of manufacturing for which Birmingham is renowned: 
  •  Nuts and Bolts - Learn about Birmingham’s role in making iron and steel goods for the world.
  • Treasure - Precious possessions made from precious metals and gemstones.
  • Tins and Things - Discover why the West Midlands is the home of aluminium production and decorative glass.
  • Gadgets - Come and uncover inventions that have changed everyday life, from cameras to mobile phones; and find out why wood and plastic have been used to produce these items.

 

The following photos taken from a visit to Thinktank during April 2013.

The pink we made it logo with a subtitle of nuts, bolts, gadgets and gizmos on a yellow background.

What has cow got to do with a car? You could also see this cow on the leaflet back in 2013.

This is a dissected Riley Elf (a bit like a Mini). I had previously seen it at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre.

Build a Mini. Showing you how to build a Mini. The wheels off and the doors off. Think Michael Caine in The Italian Job: "You only had to blow the bloody doors off!".

Licence plate at the front and back of the Mini read: TH1NK T4NK.

Another Mini, this one at least was fully entact and not cut up like the other ones. Licence plate was XFW 583.

Bike art. Made out of a Honda 750cc motorbike engine. Exhaust pipes used as tubes and the sculpture features them bent into extravagant shapes. Custom Chrome, Nuneaton, 1994.

Making silver goods. In a typical Silversmith workshop in the Jewellery Quarter.

Electricity for silver plating. Made in Birmingham. Was the first industrial electrical machine in the world. Even Michael Faraday was delighted when he first saw it (putting his discoveries into practical use).

Etch. Here was a machine that was used to etch glass. You could even press a green button to operate it in the museum.

A machine used for Bending wire. Curtain hooks used to be made of metal, but are now made of plastic. Wire in, cut and bend, bend and shape, curtain hooks out.

A variety of old cameras made during the 20th Century. Included here in this collection was: Camera by Polaroid, late 1960s, Brown camera by Kodak, about 1905, Cine camera by Kodak, 1950s, Cine Camera by Pathe, 1920s and Cine Camera by Bell and Howell, about 1930.

Next up we have a Magic lantern projector. It looks like it could be used in a cinema to show films, but it actually projects magic lanterns.

This violin was made in France by Thibouville Lamy. Some people who emigrated to the UK in the Inter War period, might have taken a violin over with them. Like a family heirloom.

Glass sculpture. Possibly made out of recycled materials. Looks like it could go in a lighthouse. You could step inside of it on the other side.

One of the Lightweight Bicycles hanging from the ceiling. This bike was made from steel. There was other bikes hanging up as well.

Slinky childrens toys. The one below like the Slinky dog toy from the Toy Story movies.

A typical Slinky walking spring toy. You can play with them in your hands, or push them down the stairs. Still got one myself (but is multicoloured).

 

More of We Made it from the next visit to Thinktank during April 2014.

This is an aluminium sail. It is an extruded aluminium yacht mast. Made in the Midlands by Sapa Profiles, Derbyshire, for Selden Masts, 2012. Lent by Sapa Profiles. It was next to the Bike Sculpture (which was to the right).

A colourfully designed area with green hearts, blue and pink plastic flowers. Thinktank was now calling this floor, The Balcony. Not sure of the purpose of this area, other than for children to play, and adults to sit down.

A collection of old mobile phones. From 'brick' to pocket-sized. Mobile telephones left to right: Sendo, designed in Birmingham in 2002, NEC, United Kingdom, 1995 and for British Telecom, from about the late 1980s.

The Chad Valley Co. Ltd was a toy manufacturer that was based in Harborne. Founded in the early 19th century. When they moved to Harborne, they named their company after the nearby Chad Brook. Which in turn gave it's name to the nearby Chad Valley. Was bought by Woolworths in 1988, but is now owned by Sainsbury's.

A Chad Valley classic car toy. Of an open topped car with a spare wheel at the back.

Guinness Stout. Toy of a classic green car. With people painted onto the side.

A toy of a Midland Red bus. Also a sign for The Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company Ltd Builders Smethwick, England 1924.

A Chad Valley toy of a red Fire Engine.

Another Chad Valley toy car, of a clockwork model of a racing car.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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The Present at Thinktank

The first area you pass through at Thinktank would be The Present on Level 2. You enter the museum from the top floor of Millennium Point. Today it is called "Investigate the Present". Usually lots of families and children here having fun (back when they were open). Several galleries up here include: Things about me, Wild life, Medicine matters and The Street.

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The Present at Thinktank





The first area you pass through at Thinktank would be The Present on Level 2. You enter the museum from the top floor of Millennium Point. Today it is called "Investigate the Present". Usually lots of families and children here having fun (back when they were open). Several galleries up here include: Things about me, Wild life, Medicine matters and The Street.


The Present at Thinktank

Located on Level 2 of Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum at Millennium Point in Eastside is what is now called Investigate the Present. On my fist visit with my camera in April 2013, this area was quite busy with lots of families and their kids learning about all kinds of things up here. The second visit with my camera a year later in April 2014, it wasn't as busy so got to have a proper look this time.

 

Description below (from the official Thinktank website) of the 5 galleries in The Present:

 

Five fascinating galleries that uncover the science all around us. Here you can be a forensic detective, find out who bit the Jurassic crocodile, and explore your senses with a giant tongue.

The galleries are located on Level 2.

 

Things About Me Gallery

This unique gallery gives kids the chance to find out more about how our bodies work. Take an unusual journey into the human body and get to grips with your muscles, guts and taste buds in an amazing exploration of some basic bodily functions. Meet the TAM gang and go supermarket shopping or join them for an aerobics work out.

 

Wild Life Gallery

Explore the diversity of life and the range of habitats found on Earth. There are many animals including insects, birds and mammals, together with fossils and sensational creatures such as Giant Deer, a Jurassic Crocodile and Triceratops skull!



Family Packs

Borrow for free one of our 'Wildlife' activity packs, designed to help you explore our museums. Suitable for 3 - 8 year olds.



Medicine Matters Gallery

The Medicine Matters Gallery is all about modern medicine and medical breakthroughs. Learn about the role of Birmingham scientists in recent medical advances.

 

The Street Gallery

Uncover the astonishing science and technology underlying everyday life in a walk down The Street.

 

Things About Me

All about parts of the human body.

The googly sign of the Things About Me. Seen during the April 2013 visit.

Your mouth, tounge and teeth.

What happens to food when it goes down your throat. Twist to draw air into the body and watch what happens to the epiglottis.

Lungs and the rib cage.

Your intestines. Can you squeeze them back in, it's a tight fit.

A close up look at the small intestine. Also your liver.

How is your food digested? Seen in the Things About Me during the April 2014 visit.

All about your beating heart. Interactive displays. Press the buttons.

How do your brain and senses work? Showing the links from your hands, and your eyes and ears.

All about your digestive system. Interact with those levers and turn the displays in front of you.

Food on the table on your plate.

Wild Life

Technically the bones and stuffed animals were found years ago, but scientists using them to learn about animals in the natural world.

Triceratops skull seen during the April 2013 visit. It was found in Montana, USA in 1908. It came to Birmingham in 1958.

A Giant Deer skeleton. This is a skeleton of an extinct giant deer. Discovered beneath a peat bog in Ireland.

Various stuffed animals (taxidermy). Starting with this Polar Bear. Seen during the April 2014 visit. Ursus martimus from the Arctic.

The main one here was a Blackbuck. Antilope cervicapra from India.

And a Leopard. Panthera pardus.

 

Medicine Matters

Scientific discoveries in Birmingham in this gallery.

Pikachu from Pokemon. First seen in a Nintendo video game back in 1997 on the Game Boy or Game Boy Advance. This was the famous Pokemon with a shock. Was also some Pokemon cartoons around the turn of the century (late 1990s into the early 2000s). Seen during the April 2013 visit.

The language of the genes. Cracking the DNA code. Seen during the April 2014 visit.

The Immunity Maze in Medicine Matters.

The Street

Everyday things on The Street, from roadworks to recycling.

Entrance to The Street. Seen during the April 2014 visit.

Underground services. Water, gas and electricity roadworks. Danger site.

Looking down at the underground services. Gas, water or electricity.

Heading towards the Zebra crossing. This way towards Medicine Matters. Kids' City to the right.

From the Zebra crossing on The Street, you can head over to Medicine Matters or Kids's City.

Yellow digger with coloured balls to pick up. Seen during the April 2013 visit. A boy was on the other side at the controls.

Microwave energy in The Street.

Section about recycling. This machine recycles Aluminium cans.

This machine recycles plastic bottles.

Another view of the recycling machines.

Know your rubbish! Most things you throw away end up in landfill or buried by incinerators. Some items can be saved and recycled and turned into something else.

Kids' City

A mini city for kids and families to learn together. It is off The Street to the right.

Coloured squares and triangles with numbers 1 to 21.

Victorian style lamppost in Kids' City.

More colourful walls, and a "tree". Pictures of foxes on the right.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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Go to space in the Future at Thinktank

On Level 3 of Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum is The Future. All about space and the Thinktank Planetarium is up here! This visit was during April 2014. See an astronaut, an alien, robots and more! Get the lift up there, or go up the stairs. An idea for a Planetarium goes back to when one was proposed for what is now Centenary Square (1941 model). This one in Eastside opened in 2001.

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Go to space in the Future at Thinktank





On Level 3 of Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum is The Future. All about space and the Thinktank Planetarium is up here! This visit was during April 2014. See an astronaut, an alien, robots and more! Get the lift up there, or go up the stairs. An idea for a Planetarium goes back to when one was proposed for what is now Centenary Square (1941 model). This one in Eastside opened in 2001.


THE FUTURE AT THINKTANK

Space, the Final Frontier, these are the voyages of the Starship Birmingham, it's continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no one has gone before!

Located on Level 3 at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum in Millennium Point is an area called The Future. I went up there during the April 2014 visit to Thinktank. Using our free Thinktank vouchers, took advantage during 2014 while it was still valid. But you have to wear a wristband. I didn't get around to going up to The Future the year before in April 2013.

 

The area is now called Find the Future. But expect that it is the same exhibits as 6 years earlier. And many of it would have been placed here back in 2001 when the museum opened.

Below is the description on the Thinktank website:

Explore the outer reaches of space, get to grips with innovative inventions and marvel at how medical advancements are saving lives. Head to Talking Point to consider scientists’ predictions for the future – and have your say!

The Futures gallery brings to life how science, technology and medicine have a huge impact on the way we live - now and in the future.

With interactive exhibits such as Create an Alien and RoboThespian, the Futures gallery aims to stimulate debate, explore scientific issues and question our place in the Universe.

 

The Planetarium now has a 4K system, but at the time of our visit in 2014 they still had the old 2001 version (it was voiced I think by former BBC Midlands Today presenter Sue Beardsmore).

This is the description for the Planeterium on the Thinktank website:

Step inside Thinktank’s Planetarium and explore the outer reaches of space, get up close to constellations, journey through the night-sky and adventure through the solar system!

In addition to astronomy, there will be shows that allow you to travel through the human body; dive under the ocean; shrink to the size of an atom or allow yourself to be immersed completely in music and light.

 

There could have been an even earlier Planetarium built in what is now Centenary Square. As seen in this model made in 1941. It would have been located close to Broad Street approximately where Symphony Hall is now. But due to World War 2, this plan was abandoned, and only Baskerville House (completed in 1938) and the Hall of Memory (opened in 1925) were built in the end. Birmingham wouldn't get a Planeterium until Thinktank opened in Millennium Point in 2001! Saw the model at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre during an open day in May 2012.

After the war, Roman Imperial imagery went out of fashion, so this plan for a civic square never came to be. The proposed planetarium would have been to the far left of the Broad Street site.

Birds-eye view of the model where the proposed Planetarium would have been located. The model was made by William Haywood, who was Secretary of The Birmingham Civic Society. In the end, it would another 60 years before a Planetarium would open at Thinktank in Millennium Point.

 

Now for a tour of The Future from my visit during April 2014.

First view of The Future after heading up the stairs to Level 3. Saw these yellow tubes in the centre of the room. They might be just below the Planetarium.

The outside of the Planetarium. When inside, it's a bit like sitting in a cinema, but looking up at the ceiling with all the changing images of the solar system and the planets and beyond!

This part was called the Future of Space. With an image of the planet Earth on it.

They had a full astronaut suit on display. Probably from the European Space Agency if not from NASA.

The front of the astronaut's suit. Could do with a helmet right now! That would protect you from the glare from the sun.

A look at RoboThespian. It was an anamatronic.

Close up look at the top half of RoboThespian.

Saw this Mars Rover on a recreation of the surface of the Martian planet. A bit like what NASA would send there.

An alien with 9 eyes! This was an animation that kept changing. Imagining what aliens could look like?

They had a couple of Gyroscopes on display. They look like remote controlled helicopters. Before drones was invented.

A moving robot arm. This is a screenshot from the video I took, as the only photo I got of it, showed it in motion while it was moving. It looks like the robot arm was drumming on a drum kit.

Futher displays in The Future. All sections here was interactive with a touchscreen. And behind the objects was screens explaining what the object was all about.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

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The Thinktank Science Garden outside of Millennium Point

The Thinktank Science Garden opened in the new Eastside City Park in December 2012. I initially saw it after it opened. Then a few years later had a close up look at the Thinktank Science Garden during another visit to Thinktank in April 2014. You need your ticket to enter. It has been so hot of late, so cool off digitally with the fun water jets here.

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The Thinktank Science Garden outside of Millennium Point





The Thinktank Science Garden opened in the new Eastside City Park in December 2012. I initially saw it after it opened. Then a few years later had a close up look at the Thinktank Science Garden during another visit to Thinktank in April 2014. You need your ticket to enter. It has been so hot of late, so cool off digitally with the fun water jets here.


Thinktank Science Garden

I was first aware of the Thinktank Science Garden, while Eastside City Park was being built during 2012, outside of Millennium Point (not far from Curzon Street).

In February 2012, I saw signs on the hoardings for Eastside City Park which said:

 
Where scientastic things happen!
 
Thinktank will be taking science outdoors in 2012 with the opening of a new Science Garden. The whole family can get 'hands-on' and 'bodies-on' with our extraordinary outdoor exhibits, and explore the science and engineering that shape your world in our three themed areas - energise, mechanise and mobilise.
The Science Garden will be located directly in front of Thinktank and is part of the Eastside City Park.

 

It was originally supposed to open in the Summer of 2012. But wasn't really completed until early December 2012 when Eastside City Park was first opened to the public. You used to be able to enter the Science Garden using your Thinktank ticket, but according to the official website it is free to enter after 3pm. In the winter period it normally closes at 4pm. It is located in front of Level 0 of Thinktank in Eastside City Park.

There would have been similar hands on contraptions at the old Birmingham Museum of Science & Industry as I remember interacting with them at the Newhall Street site back in the 1990s. Sadly the old museum closed down in 1997, with the majority of the contents being moved to the new Millennium Point site, which opened in 2001. The old museum was free, but the new museum is a paid for attraction.

Most of what you see below was probably newly built in 2012 (unless they recycled parts from the previous museum).

 

2012

My first wonder around Eastside City Park was on the 9th December 2012. The park was opened by the then leader of Birmingham City Council on the evening of the 5th December 2012. While there I had a look at the Thinktank Science Garden from the outside. It was not open.

Only a year earlier in 2011, this was part of the outdoor Millennium Point car park. But that got replaced with a multi-storey car park, enabling this land to be built into a park.

Views of the scientific machines kids can interact with such as the Chain drive (the clock tower), and the wind turbines (on the left).

The view towards the site of what is now the Curzon Building at Birmingham City University (before it was built). But at the time they were finishing off the Parkside Building. Also visible is the now demolish Curzon Gate student accommodation (to make way for HS2). It was demolished in 2019.

2013

Views of the entrance to the Thinktank Science Garden seen during March 2013. This was around half a month before paid to go to Thinktank for the first time with my then camera.

At the time was probably heading to work, so went via Eastside City Park for once. This was before 10am so wasn't open at the time. And when I did pay to go to Thinktank at the beginning of April 2013, I didn't go into the Science Garden at the time.

2014

During the April 2014 visit to Thinktank, we popped into the Science Garden with our tickets. I had some free vouchers from the Birmingham Museums Trust which I could use at Thinktank, as I had a photo of the BT Tower at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery during 2013. So had to use them in 2014 before they expired.

This is called Water playscape.

A close up look at one third of Water playscape. Water was coming out of the tap into the bucket. There was also plastic watering cans and hoses in the pool of water here.

Here we have Elastic squirt. Fire up the wate piston. At the time I was thee I had a go but it didn't really work for me.

Next up we have Effort. Looks like it was balancing wooden hands on it.

Didn't get the name of this machine, but it is tall cylinder with a red arrow on the top.

Then there was the Human hamster wheel.

Then there was the Wind turbines.

The main landmark of the Science Garden was the Chain drive. Looks like a clocktower.

The next contraption was called Hang in the balance.

Build a bridge. This was one thing I recall from the old Birmingham Museum of Science & Industry on Newhall Street. Although I don't know if it was saved from there, or completely a new build.

Also saw this Car with square wheels. Two square wheels and two round wheels. Won't get very far.

And finally we have this thing that was part of Mobilise. Maybe you have to move those rubber items around the steel tubes?

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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