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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A very personal relationship with Robots

You may have noticed that while we try to bring you an insiders guide into the life of museum workers we can be a bit reluctant here to shout about or review exhibitions we have been working on. While we champion the use of social media for museum staff it can be a conflicting relationship to review an exhibition you have put together yourself. So I tend to keeping any reference to that on my own personal accounts.

Nonetheless some of you will probably be aware that I recently moved jobs from Collections Registration Coordinator at the Science Museum to Registrar at the National Army Museum, leaving the Science Museum was an emotional decision especially as I had put over a year of my blood, sweat and tears into one of the best exhibitions ever (yep this is a totally biased review) Robots!

As the Collections Registration Coordinator on the exhibition I was responsible for negotiating the loans of all of the objects in the exhibition on display in London and the subsequent tour, so these objects in all of their humanoid form became my friends that I didn’t get to meet until the opening night – unfortunately I terminated my contract only a couple of months before install started – so my review is going to focus around the many many loans this exhibition offers.

An insight into the history of humanoid robotics the exhibition takes you from the early automata used in churches right up to the lab robots of today. Now, it would be impossible for me to write a short and snappy blog if I was to take a journey through the whole exhibition so a few of my favourites and highlights of the show are:

The Bowes Swan
I mean, a huge silver swan! That’s an automata! This object really is one of a kind, dating from around 1773 the swan is one of the earliest automata’s that is still operating today and its pretty flashy! Back in 1774 the swan was a crowd puller at the Mechanical Museum of James Cox  (a London based dealer) and now the Science Museum is well and truly blessed to get this object down to London for the exhibition so its only there for the first six weeks of the show!

Cygan quite definitely is my favourite object in this exhibition, he was my first loan in for the show and holds a very very dear place in my heart.  He has a bad boy past, having spend some time as a showman in strip clubs and has found love in recent years with his owner in the USA, an 8 foot high gentle giant he can walk, talk and dance with the ladies as showcased in this great film. The perfect example of a fifties robot ready to help around the home and be an aluminium beast.

The fourth section of the exhibition has some incredible pieces from current roboticists – who are an absolute joy to work with. There’s some robotic legs – saved by curator Ben Russell from underneath a staircase in north London, ROSA a highly intelligent 3D printed skeletal robot and in it and my favourite interactive – the ultimate machine for an exhibition so high tech its so simple. Nexi is a beautiful disproportionate and creepy looking expressive robot developed to work with humans in uncertain environments. Gizmodo call this one an emo robot 


Icub robots are incredible, you can catch them on youtube dancing to the Arctic monkeys and again this is a personal favourite because it was an interesting one to negotiate and it felt really emotional seeing it on exhibition as the exit piece in the exhibition its placed to make you consider what the future of robotics is  because its so innovative its an open sourced robot and develops in a similar way to a four year old child.

Robots is open at the Science Museum until 3rd September then heading on a UK and international tour - be sure to catch it!

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