Current Programmes | Conserving our heritage
The Royal Institution possesses one of the most important collections of scientific apparatus and manuscripts anywhere in the world. The collections are almost entirely associated with Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday, John Tyndall, James Dewar, William Bragg, Lawrence Bragg and George Porter. Key iconic objects include Davy’s samples of some of the nine chemical elements he discovered (including sodium) and his early miners’ safety lamps, Faraday’s first electric transformer and generator as well as the first iron filing diagrams, Tyndall’s tube to show why the sky is blue, the earliest Dewar flasks (better known as the ‘Thermos’ flask), and Lawrence Bragg’s original model lysozyme, the first enzyme to have its structure determined in the early 1960s. All of these and much else are now on display in newly built exhibition areas.
The manuscripts include the administrative papers of the Royal Institution from its foundation in 1799 and personal papers, that is correspondence, lecture notes, research notebooks. Significant items in this collection (which is housed in a purpose built vault) include Davy’s drafts of his paper on the miners’ lamp, Faraday’s laboratory notebooks running to more than 16,000 numbered paragraphs and the notes for his lectures including those where he propounded the field theory of electro-magnetism.
In total there are about 5000 objects and one shelf kilometre of archives in the collections. The team actively seeks support and funding to enable the long-term survival of this extraordinary collection which contributed so much to the creation of the modern world.