Metals: Pioneering Materials


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About the Exhibition

Journey through the ages and explore how metals have inspired mythologies, transformed cultures, and catalysed scientific discoveries that affect all of our lives. Metals: Pioneering Materials unravels the histories of different metals, investigates their origins, and identifies the reasons why they have come to surround us in contemporary life.

From smartphones to skyscrapers, metals are everywhere. This exhibition highlights the use of these materials for technological advancements, but importantly also explains the contexts of their discovery and journey into widespread use. We trace their histories from the unearthing of small volumes of impure metals in prehistoric times, to modern use in construction, transportation, communication, entertainment, and decoration.

Have you ever wondered why it took over a thousand years for cast iron to come into regular use from the point of its discovery?

Or why certain metals, such as gold, became symbols of status across the world? Metals: Pioneering Materials provides detailed and accessible answers into cultural and historical contexts of their adoption and popularity.

The exhibition includes metal objects commissioned by the Henry Royce Institute (Royce) to give attendees a hands-on look at how metals were used in medieval armour. Join us to try on a medieval helmet and compare the weights of different materials used to protect the arms of soldiers.



A History of Metals

Select a heading below to learn more about the history of metals. Each link corresponds to a section of the Henry Royce Institute exhibition Metals: Pioneering Materials and provides more insight and detail into the period.

Metals Timeline

Take a look at our timeline of the metals featured in the Metals: Pioneering Materials exhibit.

There are many other important metal discoveries that have changed the world as we know it.


View the timeline

About the Objects

The exhibition features a number of metal objects commissioned by Royce to give attendees a hands-on look at how metals were used in medieval armour. Select one of the links below to learn more about the objects.

As the UK’s national institute for advanced materials, Royce is committed to inspiring the next generation of materials scientists and engineers into the field. Alongside providing access to our national cutting edge research facilities, Royce is actively fostering an engaged learning community in materials science and engineering throughout the UK.

To find out more about outreach at Royce visit:

Contact the Outreach at Royce Team

The Royce Metals: Pioneering Materials exhibit is open from 10 March – 10 June 2023 in the Royce Hub Building at the University of Manchester. The exhibit is free to attend and walk-ins are welcome.

If you would like to book to attend a session including a talk from our curator please use this eventbrite link.