The Culture24 Crystal Ball: The big UK Science and Nature museum exhibitions during 2013

By Ben Miller | 03 January 2013
A photo of a large orange scaley fish
Revital Cohen, at John Hansard, is one of the opening highlights of the year in Science and Nature. Commissioned by The Arts Catalyst© Cohen Van Balen

Aliens figure prominently, but there's also room for the flipside of extinction, the Large Hadron Collider and loads of festivals in a promising-looking 2013 of museum exhibitions covering science and nature.



Its place in The War of the Worlds might make Woking the home of sci-fi. So Alien Invasion, which charts the origins of HG Wells’ book, will be part-homecoming when it opens at the town’s Lightbox (from October 15).

An Alien Revolution, conversely, opens at the Royal Observatory Greenwich (March-August). Starting from Copernicus’ visions of our place in the cosmos during the 16th century, it’s part of an Alien Season at the Observatory including planetarium shows, talks, workshops and screenings of cult classics.

The Design Museum carries on dreaming. In United Micro Kingdoms (May 1 – August 25), designers Dunne and Raby devolve England into four separate countries, each with its own governance, economy and lifestyle in a socio-technological experiment.

A photo of a child holding a thin brown butterfly on her hand
Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum in London
Extinction, counter-intuitively, could support the evolution of life according to a major exhibition – Extinction: Not the end of the World? – at the Natural History Museum (February 8 – September 8 2013).

The NHM also hosts its uplifting outdoor flutter, Sensational Butterflies (March 29 – September 15), and a world premiere of Genesis – acclaimed photographer Sebastião Salgado’s extraordinary images of landscapes, wildlife and remote communities (opens April).

Astronomical imaging is chronicled at the National Maritime Museum, where Visions of the Universe (June-September) showcases material ranging from the earliest drawings of the stars to photographs from NASA and the Russian space programme. More than 100 images of stars, planets and galaxies appear.

A photo of a scientist in a lab coat letting off a blazing fire in a controlled experiment
Cambridge Science Festival
Commissioned by The Arts Catalyst, artists Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen present two new commissions for Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery (January 22 – March 9). Transformism interweaves science and technology into new sculptures, installations and audio-visual pieces.

The Science Museum’s explanatorily-titled exhibition, Large Hadron Collider (opens November 7), will immerse you in “the greatest intellectual adventure on the planet”.

Backed by the Hadron’s creators, the display includes the apparatus responsible for delivering the electron and splitting the atom, explaining how 10,000 scientists worked at the extremes of temperature, vacuum and energy.

Two venues, the Barbican and the Wellcome, unite for Wonder: Art and Science on the Brain, a spring season featuring a performance lecture by Oxford mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, big screen films exploring neuroscience and a theatrical 19th century Parisian style salon.

There are, as usual, numerous festivals to anticipate. Brighton Science Festival (February 9 – March 3), Oxfordshire Science Festival (March 9-24), Cambridge Science Festival (March 11-24), Caithness International Science Festival (March 19-23) and the Bristol Festival of Nature (June 15-16) are the first dates for your diary.

London Science Festival and Manchester Science Festival both return in October, This year’s British Science Festival will be held in Newcastle (September 7-12).
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