9 episodes

Even the most ordinary objects have fascinating stories to tell. Journey through their extraordinary lives as host Nihal Arthanayake invites experts and enthusiasts to share remarkable stories of the everyday things around you.

A Brief History of Stuff explores the past, present and future of the stuff in your home – from bath toys to the microwave oven – and looks at how they helped science and changed our world.

Each episode features a story inspired by incredible items from the Science Museum Group Collection. The collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives.

A Brief History of Stuff Science Museum Group

    • Science
    • 4.9 • 20 Ratings

Even the most ordinary objects have fascinating stories to tell. Journey through their extraordinary lives as host Nihal Arthanayake invites experts and enthusiasts to share remarkable stories of the everyday things around you.

A Brief History of Stuff explores the past, present and future of the stuff in your home – from bath toys to the microwave oven – and looks at how they helped science and changed our world.

Each episode features a story inspired by incredible items from the Science Museum Group Collection. The collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives.

    Rulers

    Rulers

    ‘As long as you need to be able to draw a straight line, hopefully rulers will have a place in the world.’


    In the final episode, host Nihal Arthanayake is joined by Senior Production Manager at Ordnance Survey, Jim Goldsmith, and Copy Services Assistant at the National Railway Museum, Chris Valkoinen, to explore the long history of the ruler.


    Journey to ancient Sumer where you’ll find the oldest surviving ruler, explore how measurements were a point of conflict in the French Revolution, and discover the role of Alexander Hamilton (from the musical!) in bringing technical drawing skills to Britain.


    This episode was inspired by some of the rulers in the Science Museum Group Collection. Our incredible collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives.


    A Brief History of Stuff is a Storythings and Science Museum Group production. Find out more about this episode on our website. You can discover more stories about the everyday objects around you in our Everyday Technology series, and find out why the kilogram was redefined in 2019 in this blog post.


    Follow the Science Museum on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more insights into the collection and use #ABriefHistoryOfStuff to join the conversation on social media. You can discover more about the history of Ordnance Survey on their website, and research our technical drawing archives at Search Engine at the National Railway Museum. You can pick up copies of Chris Valkoinen’s Railways: A History in Drawings from late August 2021.


    Subscribe to A Brief History of Stuff wherever you listen to podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes. To help others discover A Brief History of Stuff, please rate our podcast. You can support this podcast and our museums by donating online.


    If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts on our podcast, please email us via podcast@sciencemuseum.org.uk.

    • 34 min
    Microwave ovens

    Microwave ovens

    They quietly whir and ping away in our kitchens, heating up food and the odd cold cup of tea - but behind these unassuming boxes of plastic and metal lies a remarkable story.


    In this episode, host Nihal Arthanayake is joined by food stylist and recipe writer Mima Sinclair to explore the rise of the mug cake, and curator Liz Bruton who reveals how the origins of the microwave are not so innocent…


    This episode was inspired by microwave ovens in the Science Museum Group Collection. Our incredible collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives. 


    A Brief History of Stuff is a Storythings and Science Museum Group production. Find out more about this episode on our website. You can discover more stories about the everyday objects around you, including the history of kitchen appliances on our website. This episode features an Amana Radarange Touchmatic microwave oven and Randall and Boot’s original cavity magnetron valve.


    Follow the Science Museum on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more insights into the collection and use #ABriefHistoryOfStuff to join the conversation on social media.


    Subscribe to A Brief History of Stuff wherever you listen to podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes. To help others discover A Brief History of Stuff, please rate our podcast. You can support this podcast and our museums by donating online. 


    If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts on our podcast, please email us via podcast@sciencemuseum.org.uk.

    • 32 min
    Tin cans

    Tin cans

    ‘Food has been a really important part of our socializing as humans. It’s when we enjoy food together, we tell the stories and sit around a fire as our ancient ancestors would have done. And we like to do that as well, on the space station.’


    In this episode, host Nihal Arthanayake speaks to British astronaut Tim Peake about what food is really like in space, while Science Museum curator Helen Peavitt discusses the history of food preservation.


    Hear how tin cans have helped or hindered Antarctic explorers, what meals might involve on an expedition to Mars, and why it’s probably not a good idea to eat baked beans in space…


    This episode was inspired by tinned space food in the Science Museum Group Collection which was made in collaboration with Heston Blumenthal for Tim Peake's journey to the International Space Station in 2015.


    Our incredible collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives. You can discover more stories about the everyday objects around you, including the history of food preservation on our website.


    Read about the first bacon sarnie ever to be consumed in space on our blog and discover the oldest surviving tin can in our collection.


    Follow the Science Museum on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more insights into the collection and use #ABriefHistoryOfStuff to join the conversation on social media.


    You can follow Tim Peake on Instagram and Twitter.


    Subscribe to A Brief History of Stuff wherever you listen to podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes. To help others discover A Brief History of Stuff, please rate our podcast. You can support this podcast and our museums by donating online. 


    If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts on our podcast, please email us via podcast@sciencemuseum.org.uk.

    • 37 min
    Menstruation products

    Menstruation products

    Around 800 million people across the world are menstruating right now, using a variety of products and methods to deal with their blood. But accessing these products can be a challenge, even today.


    In this episode, host Nihal Arthanayake speaks to curator Rebecca Raven about the fascinating stories behind the menstruation products many of us use, while Dr Suba Thiyagalingam discusses period poverty, taboos and why we should talk more about periods.


    From the Roman empire to the first world war and from sanitary belts to modern mooncups, you’ll learn how people dealt with periods in the past, discover the impact of disposable products on the environment and hear about the possibilities of a more sustainable future.    


    This episode was inspired by a mooncup and tampon in the Science Museum Group Collection. Our incredible collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives. 


    A Brief History of Stuff is a Storythings and Science Museum Group production.


    Find out more about this episode on our website. You can discover more stories about the everyday objects around you, including menstruation products. Read about the sustainable items recently added to our collection and the life of sanitary belt pioneer Mary Kenner on our blog.   


    Follow the Science Museum on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more insights into the collection and use #ABriefHistoryOfStuff to join the conversation on social media.


    You can follow Dr Suba on Instagram and listen to her wonderful podcast In Hysterics.  


    Subscribe to A Brief History of Stuff wherever you listen to podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes. To help others discover A Brief History of Stuff, please rate our podcast. You can support this podcast and our museums by donating online. 


    If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts on our podcast, please email us via podcast@sciencemuseum.org.uk.

    • 28 min
    Vacuum cleaners

    Vacuum cleaners

    Household chores are an unavoidable part of everyday life. For thousands of years a broom was enough, but by using the humble vacuum cleaner we changed our homes forever.


    In this episode, carpet sweeper expert Laura Humphreys takes us on a journey through the remarkable history of the vacuum cleaner, while conservator Kate Perks describes the care taken to clean delicate items on display at the Science Museum.


    Hear how the first vacuum cleaner was invented, why we should call them Spanglers not Hoovers, how the spring clean began and what housework can tell us about the world around us.


    This episode was inspired by Booth’s red trolley vacuum cleaner and the Hoover constellation in the Science Museum Group Collection. Our incredible collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives. 


    A Brief History of Stuff is a Storythings and Science Museum Group production. Find out more about the items in this episode on our website. You can also discover more stories about the everyday objects around you, including on vacuum cleaners.


    Follow the Science Museum on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more insights into the collection and use #ABriefHistoryOfStuff to join the conversation on social media.


    You can follow Laura Humphreys on Twitter and find out more about Globalising Housework, her fascinating book on housework.


    Subscribe to A Brief History of Stuff wherever you listen to podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes. To help others discover A Brief History of Stuff, please rate our podcast. You can support this podcast and our museums by donating online. 


    If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts on our podcast, please email us via podcast@sciencemuseum.org.uk.

    • 25 min
    Microphones

    Microphones

    Microphones have changed the way we hear the world. From the experiments of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Alva Edison, through the birth of rock and roll to the explosion of podcasts and video conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, microphones have become integral to our modern lives.  


    In this episode, National Science and Media Museum curator Annie Jamieson takes us on a journey through the surprising story of the microphone, while host Nihal Arthanayake and air traffic controller Adam Spink reveal how microphones are essential to their working lives. 


    Listen and discover how microphones changed the direction of pop music and amplified political voices, why smaller is not always better, and how spider silk might be used in the microphones of the future.  


    This episode was inspired by the BBC Marconi AXBT ribbon microphone in the Science Museum Group Collection. The episode also features a carbon granule microphone and lip microphone. Our incredible collection contains more than 7 million items which illustrate the impact of science, technology, engineering and medicine on all our lives. 


    If you would like to uncover more about how sound is created, how it moves and how we hear it, explore the National Science and Media Museum’s Sound Season this summer.  


    A Brief History of Stuff is a Storythings and Science Museum Group production. Find out more about the items in this episode and read the transcript on our website, you can also discover more stories about the everyday objects around you. You can support this podcast and our museums by donating online. 


    Follow the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more insights into the collection and use #ABriefHistoryOfStuff to join the conversation on social media.


    Follow @NATS or visit www.nats.aero to find out more about the work of air traffic controllers. 


    Subscribe to A Brief History of Stuff wherever you listen to podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes. To help others discover A Brief History of Stuff, please rate our podcast.


    If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts on our podcast, please email us via podcast@sciencemuseum.org.uk.

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

Heathercowen ,

Lovely Stuff!

Missing the Museums so much - podcasts like this help to fill the gap. Thank you!

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