The Science Museum’s Never Been Seen website shows you objects with zero views
The site reveals unseen photographs of objects from its archive, making you the first person in the world to see that object online and offering the joy of random discovery.
- Jenny Brewer
- 14 January 2021
In an era where huge value is placed on high numbers of views and shares, people are increasingly craving the opposite – the excitement of seeing something enigmatic and undiscovered. Websites like Astronaut.io or Petit tube have tapped into this with YouTube videos, pulling random content no one’s seen before to the spotlight. And the Science Museum Group's latest web tool Never Been Seen offers some of that esoteric discovery. Each time you refresh the page it reveals a random photograph of an object with zero views within its collection, making its viewer the first person in the world to see that object online.
We might not be able to wander the galleries at the moment, but this new tool offers the feeling of happening upon something in a distant corner, and could be an endless resource of visual inspiration. Opt to reveal an object and the website might throw up a totally mundane photo of a fire extinguisher, or it could show you the Apollo 11 lunar chart, a geological cross-section of the Earth’s layers, or the original video cassette for Atari’s Star Wars game by Parker Brothers. It might be lacklustre, or it could spark an idea, depending on who you are and what you’re looking for. Either way it’s a great way to see something new, with its own unique story, from outside our current bubbles. Most of the images also allow for viewers to download and use the image under creative commons licenses.
The website marks a milestone for the London institution in reaching 100,000 objects with a photograph in its online collection. That’s just 24.9 per cent of the objects in its archive, with hundreds of new photographs published online each month. Colleagues across the Science Museum Group are tasked with studying, photographing and digitising its vast collection, and now we can be privy to their eclectic knowledge.
Never Been Seen is one of a series of digital tools released by the Science Museum Group Collection, including the Random Object Generator slideshow, Museum in a Tab (a Google Chrome extension that displays a different item from its collection in each newly opened tab), What the machine saw (which tells you what machine learning sees in an image), and a tool that allowed Animal Crossing fans to add objects from its collection to their island.