Although the Science Museum is the youngest of the museums in the Exhibition Road Cultural Quarter its origins date back to the Great Exhibition of 1851. The study of science was a key part of the exhibition’s objective. This ideal was continued by Prince Albert and the 1851 Commissioners when they developed the area of South Kensington.
South Kensington Museum's science collections
South Kensington Museum's Brompton Boilers, the first building of the museum which opened in June 1857, contained some science collections: animal products, food, educational apparatus, and building materials. There was also a separate exhibition of machinery.
As the science collections expanded during the 1860s the collections had to be gradually moved across Exhibition Road, into storage in buildings originally constructed for the International Exhibition of 1862.
In 1883 a change of emphasis occurred when the contents of the Patent Office Museum were formally transferred to the South Kensington Museum. At about the same time the Science Library was established. From 1893 the Science Collections had their own director but were still administered as part of the South Kensington Museum. The accommodation was by now inadequate and the scientific community argued for new and appropriate buildings.
Separation of the art and science collections
In 1909, when the new Aston Webb buildings were opened, the renaming of the museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum was confined to the art collections. The science and engineering collections were finally separated administratively and the name 'Science Museum', in informal use since 1885, was officially adopted. Although the building that we know today as the Science Museum did not open until 1928.