This is a blog about an exhibition at the Science Museum on pain. The stories we’ve found are fascinating, so we want to share them with you – and explain the challenges of turning these stories into an engaging display for our visitors. The exhibition features stories of amazing individuals, objects and images that will help to make sense of the very latest science – some of which could lead to future pain treatments.

Why pain?

Last year, nearly 6 billion painkillers were sold in the UK. That’s a lot of drugs for a lot of pain. Neuroscience, genetics and new technology are helping researchers to understand how we feel pain. New developments make it possible for scientists to tackle questions that were once purely philosophical. How does the link between the brain and body influence the pain you feel? Will this understanding lead to a pain-free future?

Here’s a little bit about how we’ll make the exhibition, just so you know who’s involved…

The Contemporary Science team, just like the rest of the Science Museum, loves innovating, so we’re trialling a new way to create an exhibition. We invited three groups to join our team.

Year 9 students, aged 13–14, from Langley Academy helped us to make sure this new exhibition is fun and relevant to the next generation of science enthusiasts. They also collaborated with game designers to create an interactive exhibit, because ‘everything is better with a game’!

Pain is a personal subject, and everyone’s experience is individual. A group of adults who suffer with chronic pain incorporated their personal perspectives into the exhibition. Lucinda Jarret joined the group to facilitate as they worked with artist Deborah Padfield and film-maker Helen Omand to co-create a film of their reflections on the research.

The team also connected with a network of science experts headed up by consultant anaesthetist Andrew Morley from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. A handful of these experts briefed both the students and the adult group early in the project and many are still actively involved in the exhibition and will take part in events in future.

These groups provide experience on pain research and alternative perspectives on the content. We hope this makes the exhibition more engaging and relevant to visitors.


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