Science fiction invites us to boldly go and explore strange new worlds. Through imaginative works of literature, film and television, we are compelled to consider the consequences of our actions, seek answers to profound questions about what it means to be human and examine the possibilities of tomorrow. Visitors to Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination, a blockbuster Science Museum exhibition launching in October 2022, can do all that and more as they board an extra-terrestrial spaceship on an immersive journey of discovery.
This unforgettable experience begins the moment you enter the exhibition’s departure lounge, ready to blast off into space. In this unique story-led exhibition, visitors have a vital role to play in helping an extra-terrestrial artificial intelligence understand more about humanity while exploring a vast spaceship. Guided by the AI, visitors can examine visions of the future through science and science fiction, encountering authentic items from celebrated science fiction films, television series and literature as well as significant scientific objects that have shaped modern life.
Science and science fiction often inspire each other. Fantastical space voyages such as Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to George Lucas’ Star Wars have become reality through our own exploration of the solar system. We examine humanity’s urge to explore through displays on the Engineering Deck. Visitors can interact with the spaceship’s warp core and admire real and imagined spacesuits, including a gold-plated spacesuit from Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller Sunshine, before studying a huge model of the iconic Starship Enterprise. This intricate creation is based on the model used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and on loan from the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington DC. Our quest for exploration has inevitably led us to imagine other worlds and alien life. Each imagined species tells us something more about ourselves, from the merciless Daleks of Doctor Who to the vicious Xenomorph of Alien. Displayed alongside these fascinating creatures will be a scale model of a telescope used by scientists at SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) to detect intelligent life.
Understanding the body and what it means to be human has been the preoccupation of both science and science fiction. In the spaceship’s Bio Lab, visitors can question and explore this fascinating topic while studying the monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, known as the first science fiction novel. Visitors can also discover how fiction helped in the invention of pacemakers and how technology inspired by Star Trek’s tricorder is changing medicine. Advanced prosthetics and cybernetics on show will allow visitors to explore how science fiction enables individuals to express identity through augmentation, including prosthetic designs inspired by science fiction, and cyborgism in Afrofuturist art.
Sir Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group, said: ‘Science fiction invites us all to be explorers, venturing across time and space while reflecting on the deepest existential question there is – what makes us human? Our ambitious exhibition is unlike any other and I cannot wait for visitors to join us on this immersive and interactive journey through the extraordinary worlds of science fiction and scientific discovery.’
The exhibition also explores artificial intelligences we have engineered and imagined, from Maria in Metropolis and HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey to today’s companion robots. Are these artificial beings just reflections of ourselves and our fears, or could they ever be alive like us? To help answer these questions, visitors can examine how AI is already shaping our societies in unexpected ways such as through biases in programming which create discriminatory algorithms.
Visitors will answer a distress call from an unexplored world and beam down to the planet in a dazzling blaze of light to investigate. As this unfamiliar and eery place is explored visitors will encounter an unusual lifeform that reacts to their presence and discover more about the planet in this captivating experience before returning to the spaceship to continue their adventure.
Glyn Morgan, Lead Curator for the exhibition said: ‘Science fiction invites us to observe our own planet and consider our impact upon it. Visitors will see bright futures the genre has imagined and be confronted by some of the biggest threats to our existence – climate change, ecological devastation and nuclear war – as we invite them to consider how often-dystopian imaginings could give us the intellectual and emotional tools to imagine and create more utopian futures.’
Visitors will see some of the darkest visions of ourselves in clips from notable science fiction films and encounter a strange landscape of waste created by Chinese artist Yao Lu as well as a poignant metal urn from Hiroshima, distorted by the heat of an atomic blast. Both science and science fiction also offer hope that we may overcome or mitigate global challenges. On display will be thought-provoking imaginings from across the globe that reflect current concerns, from water scarcity portrayed in African science fiction to rising floodwaters engulfing Manhattan in Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140. A short film featuring scientists, futurists and science fiction creators will examine the importance of creativity in finding solutions to the grave threats we face.
Visitors will end their journey overlooking Earth through a huge window from the Observation Deck. Few have savoured this unique view from space and this extraordinary vista will provide visitors with a moment to reflect on our place in the universe and the boundless creativity and imagination that exists on the blue planet we call home.
Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination is curated by the Science Museum and designed by Framestore, the BAFTA and Academy Award winning creative studio. The exhibition is kindly supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation as the Major Funder.
Link: Tickets available from 2 Dec 2021