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The Lost Scientists exhibition

An exciting art installation now open to the public at Burlington House

From 5 January 2024, The Geological Society will host a special installation in the Lower Library of Burlington House. 

The Lost Scientists installation is inspired by over 750 interviews conducted with young people from ages 10 to 21 as part of the University College London ASPIRES Project. The project seeks to understand the factors shaping young people’s trajectories, particularly their routes into and out of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The design of the artwork was inspired by the Wolfson room at the Royal Society (Carlton Terrace, St James, London). This room resembles many other professional and learned societies, typified by white marble busts and paintings of great scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The installation imagines the ‘lost scientist’; the countless young people who continue to be under-represented in STEM.

At the centre of the installation is a bust, representing one participant in the ASPIRES study: 'Vanessa', a young, working-class Black woman. When we first interviewed Vanessa aged ten, she expressed a passion for science. However, as her interviews reveal, over time she came to find that her ‘love for it wasn’t enough.’

Vanessa represents all the ‘lost scientists’ – young people with an interest and passion for STEM who have been unsupported and excluded by the education system and STEM fields. Their stories challenge dominant narratives which explain their absence from STEM as due to a lack of aspiration.

The empty frames around the bust evoke other lost scientists. The ‘thesis’ next to Vanessa echoes dissertations in the Wolfson room, reminding us of the contributions that she, and others like her, might have made. An audio recording (accessible via QR code) invites visitors to engage with Vanessa’s interviews and develop their own interpretations.

The Lost Scientists installation challenges us to re-think assumptions about the underrepresentation of women, racially minoritised and working-class young people in STEM – and invites the excluded to claim their rightful presence in elite scientific spaces.

Created by artists Masters and Munn and researcher Louise Archer, this striking and thought-provoking exhibition is a testament to the complex experience of youth, the UK’s education system, and the many paths a life can take.


Credits

Casting model and voice recording artist: Happiness Emeanuwa

Life casting: Masters and Munn

Audio direction and editing: Maxi Himpe

Introduction voice artist: Princess Emeanuwa

Concept and design: Louise Archer


Visiting the exhibition

Visit ‘The Lost Scientists’ in the Lower Library of Burlington House throughout January and February, Tuesdays to Thursdays, from 9:30am to 5:00pm.