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A royal first: the Queen opens new Science Museum gallery with first tweet

7 November 2014 

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have opened a new BT-sponsored permanent exhibition at London’s Science Museum dedicated to technology.

HM Queen at Science Museum

‘Information Age: Six networks that changed our world’ is the UK’s first permanent museum dedicated to the history of information and communication technology.

In keeping with the subject-matter of the gallery, the Queen chose to mark the occasion by sending her first tweet.

A fascinating story

The exhibition is split into six sections tracking 200 years of changing communications technology: Cable (the telegraph), Exchange (the telephone), Broadcast (radio and television broadcasting), Constellation (satellite communications), Web (computer networks) and Cell (mobile communications).

Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum, believes the exhibits are important in understanding today’s technology.

“Behind each of the 800-plus objects in Information Age is a fascinating story that helps us understand more about the connected world we live in today,” he said.

A royal first

The Queen chose to mark the occasion by sending the first royal tweet under her own name to declare the opening of the gallery.

Normally a plaque is unveiled to herald the launch of a new project, but after touring the attraction dedicated to the history of communication and information the Queen touched a tablet screen to send her message to the world.

The Queen’s first tweet displayed at the top of the BT Tower. Picture taken from Euston Square

The Queen’s first tweet displayed at the top of the BT Tower. Picture taken from Euston Square

The royal tweet read: "It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R."

The Queen's message was sent via the official @BritishMonarchy Twitter account and is likely to be re-tweeted thousands of times by many of its 722,000 followers.

BT chose to celebrate the historic moment by displaying the Queen’s message on top of London’s iconic BT Tower.

Inspiring the next generation of engineers

BT is lead principal sponsor of the exhibition and has donated 80 objects, including the dramatic centrepiece which greets visitors when they enter the gallery.

Rugby Tuning Coil

The six-meter high Rugby Tuning Coil is made from copper and wood and connected the aerial masts to the transmitter at Rugby Radio Station. For a time it was the largest and most powerful radio transmitter in the world and played an important role in the UK’s communication history. During World War II it communicated with the UK’s naval fleet and the French Resistance, while during the Cold War it transmitted messages to the submarine fleet.

Among the other highlights of Information Age are the NeXT computer that Tim Berners-Lee used to design the World Wide Web, a Manual Telephone Exchange from Enfield, the BBC’s first radio transmitter and a piece of transatlantic cable from 1865.

One of the most poignant pieces on display is a bright and colourful call box from Cameroon, representing the dramatic impact communications networks had on daily life for the people there.

David Hay, head of Heritage and Archives at BT says the objects in the exhibition tells the story of communication and the affect it has on our lives, “it’s very important the UK’s role in the story is highlight and used to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

Related links

Check out more photographs from the exhibition

Information Age: Six Networks that change our world is open now at the Science Museum. Entry is free, visit www.sciencemuseum.org.uk to find out more.

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