Natural History Museum - Engineering Dept.

Yesterday I spent a fascinating afternoon in the basement of The Natural History Museum, I went to visit the workshops and meet the people in technical production – I was seeking out The Makers.

I spoke at length to Steve Suttle, Engineering Manager a fascinating and knowledgeable person with a lifetime’s experience of making. Before coming to The Museum, Steve (like several of his colleagues) worked in the Aerospace industry for over twenty-five years, starting as an apprentice when he left school. Despite being really welcoming and interested in my Value of Making project, Steve was pretty gloomy about the future of engineering in this country he couldn’t see where the next generation where going to be able to learn and grow and practice the haptic skills required to become proficient.

Steve didn’t single out a particular favourite tool but rather expressed the idea that all his tools were an extension of his hands and that he would feel lost without them. Consequently he felt really aggrieved if anything went missing, or was borrowed and not returned. We also talked about having the right tool for the job and developing new skills and enjoying learning to use new tools like CAD.  

For me the Machine tools were the stars of the show, the big enamelled beasts, oily and covered in sparkling swarf. Over the next few months I’m going to be making new work based on the NHM Engineering Dept.


Many thanks to Steve Suttle and to Darren Dickson for showing me around all the Natural History Museum workshops and explaining what goes on in Technical Production.

Emily MacKillop