Im lucky to have been to the Science museum in London several times both as an adult and as a child and enjoyed it very much. Its the 6 weeks holiday and I booked a day off to take my 6 year old niece out for the day and was recommended the Think Tank in Birmingham. I live 45 minute train journey away so thought why not it looked good online and a friend advised it was fun for children.
Think Tank is located at millennium point in the City Centre. It closest train station is Moor Street which is handy for me as the train runs from Leamington to Moor Street every 30 minutes (I think). From Moor Street main exit go right and you pass bus stops (if you want to get the bus here) and a La Tour hotel, there is a walk way past the hotel and over a small road then you head down a garden/grass area and in front you will see a big old building which is the old train station on Curzon Street, this is also the proposed link for the HS2 so if/when this opens it will be direct opposite the Think Tank. Walking took us about 5 minutes, New Street would probably be about 20 minutes away but I know they have changed the entrance/exit recently so this might be closer/further away.
Paying for our ticket
We walked in and on the left was the science garden area, to use this you will need to purchase your tickets at the small kiosk, they give you a wrist band for the day. I managed to get 30% entrance fee coupon online because we used the train to get there, we produced our train tickets and the assistant produced the ticket and wrist band. For 2 adults and 2 children (4 and 6 year old) it was £28.90, not a bad price. I looked online and you can buy from there at £11 for an adult, £7.50 for children added 3-15 (under 3s free), on the day tickets are £12.25 adults and £8.40 for children. Its always worth looking online for discount codes, especially if using the train as our 30% off made a big difference to the cost.
We went into here first, the children were desperate to have a go on the little demonstration areas. Some of them are incredibly difficult even as an adult but we enjoyed it! The garden has things to do with water, gravity and so forth, all interactive for children to enjoy and most of them are quite simple to use. A personal favourite was the pulley whereby you sit in a seat and pull yourself up then slowly come back down. We spent about 30 minutes on here before going into the main museum.
Museum inside - Levels 2 and 3
The Think Tank is part of a complex with Birmingham university and some shops/conference rooms. Head in and up the escalator to the entrance. As we had wrist bands we walked straight in but there was no queue waiting to pay. Once in we were greeted by "The Street" which shows everyday life and how technology effects our lives, this had several interactive things for kids and adults to do. There was also a police crime van with pieces of evidence for you to inspect and make a conclusion of who committed the crime. To the left of this was a small nature section showing a variety of stuffed animals, a massive skeleton of a deer and other fossils, again there were interactive sections to keep everybody entertained. Past this was the human body which showed how the body works with videos and interactive quizzes. To the right of the human body was a childrens area, this is where we spent most of out time. There was a water bit similar for the garden but smaller and easier for kids to enjoy. There was a garage, dentists and doctors surgery, café and ambulance. Now each of these sections had real phones in with the dialling codes so you could sit in the dentists and call the café and whoever was in there if they answered would hopefully speak to you. Me and my sister (Who is 24) are both big kids and must have spent half an hour ringing up different areas and speaking to the children and annoying them with our calls, it was quite funny as some of the children got frustrated with the calls!
From here we went up to the next level which had a small future section. This also houses the planetarium which is an additional cost to go in, we did not buy tickets for this. The future section was quite good it had robots and showed advancements in space travel, it was quite dark in here though compared to other areas. From here we had been in the museum about 2 hours so headed back down to the ground floor for a spot of lunch.
There is meant to be a café on level 2 (The main museum area) but we could not see or find this anywhere. This was not an issue we headed down to ground floor and went to the café there. Having been to many a museum café in my time I know that they can be expensive however this was reasonably priced. I had a jacket potato with cheese and beans, my sister had a hot dog and we had 2 children's fish fingers, chips and beans, we all had a drink each and 3 kit kats, total was just under £17 which I didn't think was too bad considering and we all had hot food. The café does do sandwiches, hot and cold kids food, jacket potatoes, Panini, chips, hot dogs and a variety of cakes, crisps, chocolate, hot and cold drinks. we we were there they did a special of chicken curry and chips so I imagine this would change regularly. The café seating area is quite small to sit in but its maintained well with staff cleaning tables almost instantly. The food itself was good, the kids dinners were massive! As an adult I would have been satisfied at what they had so if you do go and have several kids to buy for 1 meal between 2 might suffice, but this would depend on appetite. I should also mention that to the side of this café there is a big seating area for those who bring packed lunches and outside the museum there is a big picnic area to use as well so you should never be sort of a place to sit.
Museum - Levels 0 and 1
After our spot of lunch we continued our tour. On the ground floor it looks at the past and has a train, tram, cars and other locomotives for you see, this is less interactive but the grandeur of the exhibits is great for kids to see. There is also other machinery and a big drainage type of thing which slowly trickles water into it before it tips a massive gush into the bottom, this happens every 8 minutes and can be seen at ground level and on levels 1 and 2 from the balcony, the kids loved watching this and we ended up seeing it tip 3 times during the course of the trip
Level 1 shows items we have produced like jewellery, plastics and glass. This was interactive like level 2 and 3 and had some lovely exhibits to look at. By this time the kids were quite tired so we headed back up to level 2 for the gift shop which had a good range of gifts to buy.
Apart from the café/seating area mentioned this museum is very user friendly. There are toilets on every level, the 4 year old is still in training so we used 3 different toilets and all were clean and tidy to a good standard. The museum has 2 lifts to take you between levels and these are prompt in arrival. There are also stairs there should you wish to use them but we used the lifts. If you have a push chair or wheel chair user there would be no issues in getting around the museum.
We really enjoyed our day out! All in all we were there about 4 hours which including stopping for lunch, the kids could have spent much longer there as they enjoyed the science garden very much. The museum itself is well kept and has facilities for all. Age range I would say this will suit all ages, the kids area is fantastic and all the interactive areas keep their interest really well. For 2 adults and 2 children I spent less than £100, train was £25.50 plus £4.50 parking, £28.90 entrance, £17 lunch, £20 in the gift shop, the last two costs could be reduced or removed depending on if you take lunch or buy gifts so overall a good day. The one thing that I do think is a shame is that the Science Museum in London is free of charge but this one is not? I don't know if there is a reason for this, having said that we still paid less than £30 entrance which I still think is acceptable for what it was. I would also like to say I visited during the 6 week holidays (peak time) and it was not overcrowded or anything like that which is good because many places like that can get overrun but this was not. Overall a good day
Thinktank is a big science museum at Millennium Point, near the heart of Birmingham, a short 15 minute walk away from the main stations and shops. It comprises of four levels of interactive exhibits, encompasing science past, present and future, as well as boasting its own planetarium. Thinktank has something for everyone, and is a very popular tourist destination.
As I have said, Thinktank is relatively easy to get to from Birmingham City centre, but there is also an ample car park, which is token operated and incurs a charge, as it does not belong to Thinktank, but is managed by another company. Entry costs are as follows:
Adult: £11.75 or £18.85 with IMAX film
Child (3-15) and concessions:£7.95 or £13.60 with IMAX film
Family of 4 £36.80 or £59.40 with IMAX film
You also get a free planetarium ticket with your entry.
The museum is split onto various levels. The ground floor houses the exhibits from the old science museum that we used to visit for free several years ago. This section is split up into four galleries: Move It, Power Up, Making Things and City Stories.
Move It: In this gallery you can see old cars, bikes and other modes of transport. There are also aeroplanes on display, and a big steam train. This is really awe inspiring to look at, and you will be blown away by the sheer size of the exhibits.
Power Up: Here you can see engines that formed an important part of the industrial revolution. You can press buttons and see the engines come to life,
Making Things: This is where you can see the products that have been made in Birmingham, and the machines that made them.
City Stories: A walkthrough exhibit that gives visitors a glimpse into life in times past.
The next Section deals with investigating the present, and is the first section you enter when you go into the museum. This section is really appealing for kids as it is colourful and interactive, with larger than life exhibits. The section comprises of five galleries:
Kids City: This is so lovely for little ones, and where we spent a lot of time. The kids city comprises of different shops and businesses such as a cafe and doctors and a garage, full of lots of dressing up and play items. There is also a big water play area for lots of imaginative play.
Things About Me: Interactive human body exhibit, with giant noses, eyes and ears, helping kids discover how the human body works.
Wild Life: A huge display of stuffed animals, presented in a way that is relevant for visitors and touches on ecology and wildlife conservation.
The Street: This section uncovers the workings behind many of the things we take for granted, as you walk along an interactive road.
Medicine Matters: This gallery explains how medicines help us, and shows breakthroughs that have changed the world.
The third section is all about the future, but in my opinion, this is the weakest section in the museum and is nowhere near as colourful or interesting as the other sections. It is quite dark in there, and all the exhibits are contolled by touch screens. The section touches on future medicine, technology and space travel, and you can contol robots and other bits of tech, but as there are few exhibits and lots of visitors, you usually can't get near anything.
The planetarium is really good, and they run various shows throughout the day, based at different age groups. There is one for toddlers called the "little star that could", but we wnet to a show aimed at an older age bracket, that showed the night sky above britain and the constellations we could expect to see. The man was really knowledgeable and ready to answer all our questions. It was good, because we never get to see the sky that clearly in built up areas, and it is truly awe inspiring to see what is up there!
The IMAX cinema is an optional extra, but to be honest, there is so much to see in the museum, that there really isn't enough time to do everything, unless you have been before. We went to see a film about Safari, but the 3D wasn't great and I have seen better at our local cinema, although the IMAX theatre is fantastic in its design, immersing you in the film.
In conclusion, Thinktank is a great family day out. It appeals to young and old and the interactive exhibits are wearing well after 10 years of constant use! There is enough to keep you entertained all day,and my only criticism is the lack of places to eat, which is really limited, although I won't drop a star over this. The staff are great and always ready to answer your questions. There are lots of good drop in sessions and activities going on, though I would recommend avoiding the placeon bank holidays, as it gets so busy you can't see as much as you would like to.
I visited Thinktank with my sister, parents and my two nieces (baby and 2 1/2 yr old).
We got a reduction on the price by travelling there by train. It is a short walk from Moor Street station and very worthwhile doing this as parking isn't free.
It is located in a big building which also houses the IMAX cinema and university / college buildings and the Thinktank spreads out over 4 floors.
You enter on level two which is 'the present' and this has several sections on topics like 'your body' and 'wild life'. We headed with my niece to 'Kid City' as this was aimed at her age group and this was great for her. There was a big water play pond (with waterproofs to wear), a doctors and dentists, a cafe, a garage and some other fun places to play. Lots of emphasis on role play and there were dressing up clothes and lots of toys to play with. My niece had a great time and other kids were all having a lot of fun too!
The rest of the zones have a lot of interactive displays with games and things to explain the science (for example games to explain how the brain works and models of the digestive system - complete with sound effects!!!)
The ground floor has the 'past' section with a lot of history about Birmingham especially it's huge industrial heritage. There is a steam train, tram and other machinery and a lot of explanation as well. There is also a lot of information about the local people working in Birmingham about 150 years ago.
The third floor is all about the future and has a lot of very interesting information on robotics, genetics and other futuristic science.
We also watched a short film in the planetarium which was free - it was all about the stars and was suitable for a young audience.
We didn't visit the first floor - I don't think there is a lot there.
There is a cafe on the ground floor but was quite busy so we went to a smaller one located just outside the front entrance. Prices were reasonable and we had a good lunch there.
Overall it was a great experience, although my niece was too small for most of the explanations, she loved pressing all the buttons, turning the knobs and pulling the levers and seeing things happen as a result.
I think it has a great balance for all ages - information aimed at various ages and a lot of fun!
I can see it being a regular trip with my niece as she gets older and can understand more of it!
I have just returned from a day out at Thinktank Birmingham.
I went with my husband, Daughter (5) and Son (2).
A great day was had by all of us. We were worried that it would be very busy but it was not which made it even more pleasant.
Before we went round thinktank we went to the Planetarium and that was really good. My daughter is really into her Stars so this talk was perfect for her and was really imformative - even my 2 year old was happy to watch the shooting stars etc. You do have to pay extra for the planetarium but it is is not overly expensive but I would not have done it had my daughter not already been interested.
We then went around the thinktank museum. My children loved the specialist section for Children and had great fun. I thought that this was very clever using thing from everyday life to actively help your child understand science although it was our responsibility to explain it to them. The childrens section is like a little town and starts off with a Hospital, Doctors room and Dentist (it even has a pretend ambulance). The children have the chance to dress up as a midwife, Dr, Surgeon, Dentist etc, great way to encourage your child with their roll play. There were also a reception area with a phone that actually worked and you could call the different places around the town. So funny when the phone rang watching my 2 year old in particular answering it and trying to have a conversation.
Adults sit in the the Dentist chair it actually smells like a room at the Dentists!
The next section was a little cafe where you could sit whilst your children brought you 'lunch'. The cafe was so realistic with a little chiller cabinet, microwave, oven etc. again dressing up clothes were available.
There was then a Car garage that did MOTs - this was a little less interesting although my son enjoyed playing with the cars. There was also plenty of other little things to do around the town and ways to teach your child road safety etc.
There was then a water feature that could be played in that showed you different ways to use water etc. Our children loved this and did not want to leave it.
The rest of Thinktank was great for us adults but some of it went over the childrens heads. I did not expect it to be aimed at the 2 year old but I did think that the 5 year old may have got more out of it.
Each floor is sectioned off - The Past, The City, The Present and The Future.
The future was really interesting and although hands on it wa too complex for our daughter so we did not spend much time there as she really was not interested.
The Present was probably the best section and we were able to talk to her about alot of the things such as the body, modern technology, animal life and recycling and she was able to see what happens to things when they are recycled. The body part was complex in parts so again too old for her.
The Past was nice to have a walk around as it had old forms of transport which the children found really interesting, especially the old steam train which we were amazed at the size of.
I do believe that this is great for children of all ages as things are aimed at different ages. I would think that it would probably be most interesting for children aged 8+ who are able to discuss things with you properly. Even so I am glad we took the children and we will definately go again next year.
We converted our Tesco vouchers for this day out so it worked out really cheap - so that was even better for us.
Our recent visit to Thinktank, Birmingham's Science museum, started out rather unpromisingly. Having navigated Birmingham's rather "interesting" ring road which had a myriad of speed cameras and very few actual signs to tell you the speed limit, we arrived to lashing rain and more lack of signage as we failed to find the actual entrance to Thinktank.
Things got better.
Thinktank is part of Millenium Point, a large modern structure that seemed to contain part of the University too and was planted between a ruined factory and a building site. Having found the entrance we were greeted by a very large dinosaur model from "walking with dinosaurs" and the ubiquitous large lobby area that modern architects seem to favour for public spaces. There is a sense that you are about to go into a different and modern kind of place; and this proved to be true as we entered the Thinktank and were indeed made to think, whilst having a great deal of fun along the way.
The Thinktank is on the 2nd floor, with good access via lift or escalator. We arrived at the entrance clutching a rather paltry 25% off one entry ticket - perhaps had we come by public transport (Snow Hill train station is nearby)we could have avoided all those cameras and we also could have got 30% off the price. Check the website for current prices but the day we visited children 3 and above and concessions paid £7.15 and Adults were £9.00. There are details of family tickets and the like at http://www.thinktank.ac/
I would also advise checking this site for details of events - they run workshops and lectures, had we done so we would have avoided the disappointment of the "dig for a dinosaur" event being late in the afternoon about 2 hours after we had peaked, however apart from that we had a great visit.
When we arrived we saw that there were 3 floors for visitors to see and plenty of hands-on fun. We started in Kids' City, which is a mini town for smaller visitors with a mini garage, surgery, shop and cafe. My children especially enjoyed serving up a meal at the cafe with pretend food, they laid the table and "cooked" everything suprisingly well. All the exhibits had been well thought through, though they had suffered a little bit from small visitors - the mini phones between the areas didn't work and spanners from the garage had gone astray, however playing with the mini dentist chair and fixing the pipes under the road was lots of fun.
For adults too other areas were hands on whilst quietly educational, on the second floor who couldn't help join in on the recycling sushi bar, where you picked up something to be recycled from the conveyor belt? We joined in and grabbed a tin of beans , and happily posted it into the right bin and then had a look at how the different materials are recycled.
There were also areas about the Wild, medicine, and on the third floor robots to be programmed to bang drums and the very interesting "walking with dinosaurs" exhibit at the time of my visit - this area hosts different events. There was also a lego mind lab where workshops were available for older children or the young at heart for an additional small charge.
We spent a few hours vistiting all three floors - level 0 held all the transport exhibits including a huge steam train and tram. We had Granny with us, so plenty of opportunity for her to exclaim "I remember that" as we looked at the items and tools from Birmingham's glorious manufacturing past, the city of 1000 trades once, so Granny told us. The children enjoyed the "see and stamp" cards as they followed a trail in this section.
We also enjoyed the "all about me" section, which brought biology to life and the wildlife section made even the stuffed polar bear and fossils seem interesting.
Every area of the museum was fascinating and well planned and there was a lot to see, I would imagine we would notice things we had missed on a return visit.
We hadn't taken a picnic, but in fact could have eaten one in the area provided on the 1st floor - again something I wish I had known before our visit. Our £3.50 sandwiches were nice enough, but I would rather have spent our pennies in the shop which had lots of toys and sciency gifts for every age.
The museum did get very busy during our school holiday trip. I would love to visit on a weekday, but if you can't do that I would advise going early as it opens or leaving your visit to the end of the day to avoid a crush at the entrance. Pre-bought tickets would also allow you to sail past the queue. The museum is laid out so that despite large visitor numbers you still can see and enjoy things but it was very noisy at times.
Overall I was impressed by this attraction and we had a very good day. I would allow at least 3 hours for a visit, and would say it is a great family destination. Older children may well get most out of it but for the preschool child there is also plenty to stimulate and inform. We enjoyed our visit and will go back soon.
We visited the thinktank with our two sons yesterday and i would recommend visiting on a Sunday as it was very quiet we could park right outside the front door and parking is cheaper on a Sunday ( £2.80 all day ) parking is normal Birmingham prices the rest of the time.
On arriving we were advised by friendly staff about a show starting in the planetarium and were given a schedule of activities and a map and were well informed .
I recommend the planetarium the film is shown in a dome so you sit slightly back and gaze at the ceiling and enjoy the 3d feature which was a good experience ( there is however an additional chanrge for watching shows in the planetarium approx £2 )
After that we went round the science museum , looking at the trains and trams and old machines that used to operate in Birmingham , most of the exhibits have interactive things like buttons to make the machines run or quizzes/information on computer screens so the kids enjoyed this rather than being told not to touch , however not all of these things worked.
We then went to the Childrens area which was the highlight of the day , there was waterplay to teach the children about how locks and canals etc work , the kids got really involved and really soaked i would advise you to take a spare change of trousers. They were able to dress up and play in an areas set out like Cafes , Hospitals and a car garage , whilst participating in fun educational activities , If you can drag your children away from this bit there is currently a walking with dinosaurs exhibit on , where you learn how they make the models for the series and see some of the original puppets whilst also learning about the dinosaurs themselves.
There is Plenty to see and keep you occupied for a good few hours at the Thinktank , there was a LEGO lab but this was not open so not sure what it was and there is a theatre show every few hours .
Inside the actual Thinktank there is one cafe which was very limited and quite pricey they had sandwiches , cornish pasty , sausage roll and jacket potatoes so i would advise you to take your own lunch and use one of the picnic areas , or visit 1st thing and get lunch somewhere in Birmingham.
In the same building as the thinktank is the IMAX 360 degree cinema so you could add that on to your visit to make more of a day of it this is priced at £7 - £9 per person.
All in all good place to visit on a rainy day but not somewhere you will want to go again and again.
We took our children and a friend as a birthday treat to the Think Tank in Birmingham, and had a fabulous day, with plenty to do. The only downside was that as it was a treat, we didn't take our usual packed lunch, and the dining facilities were very limited. I don't think it is always like this, as one of the cafes was shut, but it did mean that we had to queue for 45 mins for lunch, with a severely limited choice. We had thought that there would be lots of places to eat, if not at Millenium Point, but nearby, but of course, Brum is not designed for pedestrians, and we didn't feel like negotiating crossing dual carriageways with three 10 year olds in tow! We were not the only people to be disgruntled by the comnplete chaos of the cafes. However, the day was brilliant otherwise. We got there at 10.00am when it opened, and didn't have time to do everything as we had booked tickets for the IMAX for 2.30pm. This meant we couldn't do any of the free activities which clashed with seeing the film, but they looked excellent: educational and entertaining. There are lots of hands-on stuff, including an brilliant waterways system: they even provide plastic aprons to keep your little ones from getting wet. Our kids were too large for the aprons, but it was a nice touch. My children particularly enjoyed the 'trails' in the basement, where you had a card which had to be stamped with a selection of symbols that could be embossed onto your collector card. So in summary, a full day out, but take your own lunch (lots of areas provided to eat your packed lunch). There was a large carpark which cost us £4.50 for the day, and you can use your Tesco clubcard vouchers for the entrance fee (but not the IMAX). It cost us £60 for two adults and three children for entrance to the Think Tank and tickets to the IMAX to see 'Night at the Museum 2'. (There are lotsof 3-D films on too.)
Now a lot of people have probably not heard of purely millennium point on its own as being an attraction in Birmingham. In fact it is more likely that they have heard it referred to as the think tank at millennium point. Now this review is purely about the fantastic think tank which is definitely worth a visit if you are in or thinking about coming to Birmingham as it is fun for everybody and is absolutely fantastic so I will let you know why.
The address is as follows:
Think tank, Birmingham science museum
Now it is easy to find by car as you just look for Millennium point signs around when you get into the centre and there is a big car park which is free to park in. then it is a five minute walk away from train and bus links in the city centre so you should be able to get here no matter what form of travel.
Now you walk up the stairs in millennium point and on your right you will find the think tank. You walk in and have to pay admission which was I believe around £6 a person when we visited a few months back. Then you have an option to pay £2 extra to get into the planetarium which I thought was definitely worth it.
So lets go through the things you can do in think tank.
This is a fantastic planetarium and you sit with the seats back and just let your mind wander as you learn about the stars. There are several shows you can see depending on what time you want to go in there so you book a show and turn up a few minutes before to go in. The show lasted around twenty minutes which is fantastic value for money and I really enjoyed it but I do love the stars anyway. Well worth the little extra money to get in there.
Gallery - Think ahead:
This was by far my favourite gallery to visit and was all about modern medicine. They had robots you could look at and control which was fun and talked about how they do artificial limbs and there was also a heart pace monitor there with an explanation on how it works. It was fabulous and I wanted to read everything twice as I found it that interesting.
Gallery - Medicine:
Here you can learn about DNA and all sorts of medicines that are used for different things. You can watch an eye surgery and also take part in a hip replacement with your friends which was a huge amount of fun. This was a favourite gallery of mine also as I love medicine and it really opens your eyes about what can be done in the wide weird world of medicine.
Gallery - Street:
Recycling is a massive part of today and here you can play about with some machines to see how recycling works and how it affects the environment. It is fun watching how cans are crushed and how paper is recycled. Very informative and the younger children love this section as there are loads of interactive exhibits.
Galleries - Automotive:
This was a favourite of the boys in our group as you can see cars, planes, bikes and trains here and takes you on a journey of the past and present which is fascinating. There is lots to read about and it is very interesting to see how things worked back then.
Every now and again the think tank will have certain special things that go on. The one that I heard of on the news was a big exhibition where you could go and taste a lot of bugs which would have been fun. You will have to luck your visit to get a good exhibition when it is on..
All in all the think tank is great fun and very interesting you see a lot of things that you wouldn't anywhere else and everybody I know has loved it there. My whole family and a lot of my friends have visited and loved it. It is definitely a good museum and being in the city centre is a perfect location for it. If you are in this area, it is definitely worth going.
Recommend to all!
Thanks for reading.
I recently visited the thinktank and the IMAX cinema with my husband and five year old daughter. Our first problem was actualy finding the place, due to the large scale construction work going on in the City centre, there were many diversions and the sign posting was not that good. The building itself was very impressive and we thought we were in for a treat, but what a disappointment. We were greeted by staff that looked miserable and bored. Our next encounter was the volume of noise emmitting from some of the exhibits, which completely drowned out the narration in other sections, making interaction and participation difficlut. We also found that there were lots of buttons to push and levers to pull, great we think, this will give our daughter something to do, but NO a large proportion of these did not work. The best part of the experience for us was the exhibits that had been transfered from the Museum of Scence and Indusrty (which used to be free admission). The cost of getting a drink and anything to eat inside the place was very expensive. We did visit the IMAX cinema which I have to say was the days redeeming feature, fantastic experience if not a little loud.
Introduction ============ The late and much lamented Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry had a special place in my heart. It was, for me, what a museum should be. Spacious yet packed with all manner of interesting exhibits. Arranged with just enough care to make things easy to find, yet with just enough idiosyncrasy to allow one to stumble unknowingly upon some thitherto unappreciated fact of the City of a Thousand Trades. And, not least, free of charge. That is all now a memory, as, for reasons that were never really clear to me, it was closed a couple of years ago, and its major exhibits moved to the balmy topical climes of deepest Digbeth. Rather disappointingly, this doesn't mean that "Britain's barmy boffins" have managed to find a way to make Digbeth Coach Station habitable (some things are just too unlikely) - instead, we are now promised an all-singing, all-dancing new palace of the scientific varieties, described on the advertising leaflet as: "thinktank: the birmingham museum of science and discovery", which leads one to speculate that, however impressive its displays, it isn't going to do an enormous amount for the country's standards of literacy. Winning people over will be a tough task for Thinktank, especially given the high entrance charges. £6.50 does look rather steep - especially now that the London Science Museum is free - though I suppose it's not bad for three or four hours. A family ticket is £18.00 - with a maximum of 2 children, which seems unnecessarily mean. (There is also a one-year season-ticket, which costs £14.00 for an adult or £35.00 for a family.) And, of course, that's without considering the cost of parking. The adjoining car park costs £2.80 flat rate on Sundays; otherwise it's roughly £1.50 an hour. Originally, those parking but not using the Millennium Point complex (in which Thinktank is situated, along with the IMAX cinema, which I h
aven't yet seen) had to pay double, but this policy was not being implemented when I visited. If you come by train, you'll have nearly a mile to walk - though it's reasonably well signposted - from New Street Station. Chiltern Railways do joint train/Thinktank tickets into Snow Hill from some locations, and bus no. 77 stops nearby. Outside ======= From the outside, the building is pleasant to look at, though not particularly impressive - basically a large glass box. (Which, incidentally, means that you can have a bit of a gawp before you go in!) Inside, things are more interesting - you come into a spacious entrance hall, lit with a slightly odd purplish light, with a few basic facilities scattered about - toilets, an information centre, telephones, a (too) small café-bar, and so on. There's also what looks like an unfinished restaurant - I remember reading somewhere that it was late opening because - and I'm not making this up - "the kitchen had been put in the wrong way around". A little worrying for a science museum, I must say! This is probably the best place to explain Millennium Point's rather odd method of labelling floors. The ground floor, where you enter, is referred to as G2. The next floor up is G1, then G0. Above that is L1, then L2 (which Thinktank doesn't reach). I don't really know what the planners hoped to achieve by doing this, but personally I think it's rather confusing and completely unnecessary. To enter Thinktank, you need to go up the shiny new escalators to floor G0. There you may find an absolutely enormous queue (the first time I attempted to visit the place, the end was just past the "2 hours from here" marker!). If you have a pre-booked ticket (which costs £1 extra) you can sail up to the front looking smug: if not, you can do what I did and go to the city centre Art Gallery instead! When I had another go, though, I carefully shelled out the
quid, and arrived to find hardly anyone there, despite it being a Sunday in half term, so I rather wasted my money! G0: Thinknow ============ Through the turnstiles (your ticket allows one re-entry in the day), past the gift shop (clipboards made from recycled circuit boards!), you enter the museum proper. G0"s section is entitled "Thinknow" (all the levels, regrettably, have these somewhat illiterate names - perhaps "Thicknow" would be a more appropriate title!), and the first section is "The Street", of which the most obvious constituent is... er... a (working) pelican crossing. This section, gushes the blurb, helps people "discover the science behind things we all take for granted" - cars and mobile phones, for example. (And, it seems, signs saying "I need fixing! Please come back another time", or the like, of which there were too many.) Here you'll also find the first of several yellow booths, looking rather like the ones evening newspaper sellers use, at which you can listen to various points of view on a topic (eg "Should we spend more on alternative energy?"), vote, and see how previous visitors have voted. Rather ironically, the "Communications" booth was broken! Sadly, the "Kids in the City" playroom with its water park is off-limits to all but accompanied under-7s (curses!), so let's move on to the "Medicine Matters" displays. As would be expected from a new museum, there's lots of stuff about DNA and genetics - the obligatory scrolling display of the human genome, a "be the detective" section where you solve a burglary with the aid of DNA screening, etc - but perhaps the most talked-about part is likely to be the vaccination and public health display (and not just because of the fun though difficult "zap the germs" computer game). In the light of the current hysteria over the MMR vaccine, i
t was interesting to see that almost 90% of people voting at the yellow booth still agreed that children should have all their vaccinations. Then, there's "Things About Me", advertised as "great for under-11s", but worthwhile for the rest of us as well. As the blurb says, "voyage through veins and ventricles in an amazing exploration of your own body". Except that the centrepiece of this section, the "cell railway", was not working. Never mind - anyone who likes Turing Test-style computer programs can have a good guffaw at the example here - a truly appalling version, which purports to be able to converse with you about the weather. It might be worth persevering with if only there wasn't a five-second delay on everything you typed, and if only the keyboard wasn't so worn as to be almost illegible already. The final main section of Thinknow is "Wild Life". A good section, this one, with plenty of information, some ideas I haven't seen before (be a bat and catch the moths with your sonar!) and - slightly surprisingly - an old-fashioned glass case containing a range of stuffed animals, from peacocks to polar bears. Still, there's also a great big ammonite ("wake up in the mornin' wantin' a fossil...), and anywhere with one of those can't be all bad. L1: Thinkahead ============== Up the stairs from G0 (or use the glass-fronted lift), and you reach the "Thinkahead" gallery. This is where the hi-tech exhibits live. The main room has some fun interactive displays, such as a voice-controlled radio from a Jaguar (which has trouble understanding anything other than adult males, incidentally), and a Jaguar F1 car (yes, you're right, Jaguar are a sponsor of the gallery!). For motorsport fans, though, more interesting than the car (an R2, if you need to know) is the accompanying video of driver Pedro de la Rosa whinging about the increasin
g influence of technology in F1, and expressing the view that, 20 years hence, the cars will be effectively remote controlled, and the driver will be - quote - "a monkey". Another part of this level contains some interesting interactive displays on space travel - the deep-space information, in particular, is worth exploring in some detail - and there's also a fair amount concerning robotics. L1 also contains "Thinkspace", where temporary exhibitions are placed. G1: Thinkhere ============= Down to G0, and down again, is the excellent "Thinkhere" level. As the name implies, this concerns itself with the city of Birmingham itself from its earliest foundations to the present day. Although there is a great deal of information and a large number of exhibits from early times, my personal favourites are the cases containing nick-nacks from more recent years - the waistcoat covered with union badges from the miners' strike (the brand name of the waistcoat - "Wildcat", of course!); the Tatung Einstein microcomputer; the 1949 television set (what? no Neighbours?); the programme for the much-missed Birmingham Superprix (the Pershore Road roundabout is still full of gravel from those days!)... This floor is perhaps the closest of any to a traditional museum, in that there is a collection of objects in glass cases, but it's no less interesting for all that (though rather too many lightbulbs had gone). Two exhibits that stick in my mind are an extraordinary collection of pen nibs (I remember this from the old museum) and some fascinating jewellery made from cut steel. It's not a material one might think of for making rings and bracelets, but it turns out very well indeed. G2: Thinkback ============= If you're looking for the City of Birmingham locomotive, John Cobb's 400mph Land Speed Record car or the Spitfire, here they are. Here, also, are the big clunk
y steam engines of blessed memory. Unfortunately, while a number of the machines had a big green button labelled "Start", not a single one of those appeared to do anything, which does rather defeat the object of a "hands on" museum! Still, the display of robotic spot-welding by on an S-Type shell (yep, it's that Jaguar sponsorship again!) is highly impressive, and the robots are, in an odd way, almost balletic in their movements. The interactive displays on this level are generally well done and interesting - the cargo game, for example, wherein you have to transport goods from Birmingham to Liverpool within a time limit, making use of road, rail or water transport as appropriate, is really rather addictive. More problems with broken exhibits here - most notably the pen-nib making machine ("how many nibs can you make in 60 seconds?"), which looked like a lot of fun. And, as elsewhere in the museum, the speakers for the videos were often badly placed, meaning that it was very hard to hear the commentary against the background noise of the steam engines (the American newsreel of John Cobb's run at Bonneville is a case in point). Also on G2 is the café bar, the only one you can get to without going out of Thinktank proper. Surprisingly, this doesn't mean it charges absurd prices - they're expensive, of course, but £2.00 or so for a packet of sandwiches is about par for the course. As well as the sarnies, you can also choose from pizza, pasta and baguettes, and - before 11:30 - "a range of breakfast items" (the menu explains no further). One tip I would pass on is to get there early - at 11:30 or so there's plenty of space; an hour later you'll have trouble finding space to stand, let alone sit down. Conclusion ========== There are three major problems with Thinktank. Firstly, the reduction in space from the old Museum of Science and Industry means that ther
e are only specimen exhibits of some items - there is nothing like the old building's Aircraft Hall or the display of gramophones through the ages. Second, far too many displays were broken or wearing out - inexcusable in such a new museum. This alone downgrades my rating from 4 to 3 stars. And third, and to me the most disappointing aspect, we've lost all those wonderful old wooden-cased computers from the 1950s and 60s - they might have only consisted of a few circuits and an eight-segment LED, but I loved them. The same goes for the spectroscope cabinet with its rotating fork. I do hope they're being stored somewhere safely, as destroying them would be a disgraceful act of technological vandalism. Despite these complaints, Thinktank is a good museum; let me say that much here and now. It's less crowded than you might expect (anyone who has been to "@Bristol" or its predecessor, "The Exploratory" will appreciate this!). The interactive exhibits are generally engaging and well thought out, the staff are helpful and there is a good deal of genuinely useful information to be gleaned. In short, then, a visit to Thinktank is recommended, provided you don't balk too much at the cost of getting in. It's not, in my view, close to the standard of the old museum in terms of sheer charm (or space), but it could be a great deal worse. Just get those damn steam engines fixed! ====================== Opening hours: 10am - 5pm Saturday - Thursday. Warning: CLOSED on Fridays! ======================
I visited the thinktank on the 29th september( opening day), and what a brilliant time we had!! WHERE IS THE THINKTANK? well its situated inside millennuim point which is very easy to find just 10 mins from the rotunda.If your coming by car its 3 miles from junction 6 of the m6 and its well sign posted. SO...WHATS INSIDE? On arriving we went up a huge escallater..wow!!!!!. Once in the queue we had quite a long wait but this was probably due to it was its first day. When we had payed and got into the thinktank it was well worth the wait. There are 10 themed galleries spread over 4 floors so put your walking shoes on!!. LEVEL 1.... is called think ahead which is all about the future from robots to satellite images very interesting. GROUND... This is my fave and the kids loved it..theres kids in the city which is designed for under 7s..they can become a postman,mechanic,chef(it has a real cafe designed for kids to serve up orders with plastic food..great!!!!.Also on this floor theres the human body,wild life,medicine matters an a shop. GROUND 1... is called think here. this level is all about the history of birmingham with many things to look at. ground 2....This is the level for you if you like machinery and engines..sadly i dont so didnt spend to much time on this level, but i do know they have a locomotive,ww2 spitfire and hurricane. THE PRICE.....? i thought it was good value for money as it takes up most of your day. the prices where as follows : Adult £6.50 Child £4.50 Family(2 adults 2 children) £18.00 the opening times where 6 days a week(closed on fridays)10am till 5.00pm They also have a theatre/cinema called IMAX,it has 42 speakers surround sound and a screen thats 5 storeys high by 4 buses wide!!! i didnt visit it this time, but will next time.