News

2021 writing prize for early career scholars

Remember to prepare your papers now for submission to the 2021 Science Museum Group Journal writing prize for early career scholars and professionals! The deadline for next year’s competition is 1 March 2021. A first prize of £500 is awarded annually to the author of the best original research article which addresses research questions around history of science, heritage, exhibitions, communications and public engagement. We also aim to publish winning papers in the Journal so this is a great chance for early career scholars to make a splash. Further details about the writing prize are available here.

Issue 14

Issue 14 of the Science Museum Group Journal is a special edition on ‘Curating Medicine’. Guest edited by Sarah Wade, the issue looks at how medicine is collected, interpreted and displayed through the eyes of museum curators and practitioners. Although it was planned over 18 months ago to mark the completion of the Science Museum’s new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries, Issue 14 is sadly more topical than we could have known. In Sarah’s words: ‘As the current pandemic makes abundantly clear, health and medicine touch the lives of everyone.’

As a collection the papers here chart some examples of curating medicine from the perspectives of practitioners themselves, providing insights into the approaches they took and why, the challenges they faced and the strategies used to overcome these, as well as outlining avenues for future directions. Individual papers reflect the concerns of specific institutions, contexts and projects, of course. Brenda Malone discusses a Rapid Response Collecting project to capture the material culture of the Irish Abortion Referendum, highlighting its impact on new contemporary collecting policy at the National Museum of Ireland. Ken Arnold and Danielle Olsen reflect on what they learned from the process of running Contagious Cities, a huge international project co-ordinated by the Wellcome Trust, and Manon Parry looks at evolving trends in the display of medicine, especially approaches to contentious themes such as disability and decolonialism, in museums across Europe.

The role of art in medicine exhibitions is discussed in depth here. George Vasey considers the role art can play in presenting uncomfortable themes such as illness and death, while reflecting on the Wellcome Trust’s Misbehaving Bodies exhibition. Katy Barrett interviews various artists connected to the Science Museum’s Medicine galleries while continuing to explore what it means to be an art curator in a science museum. Jörn Wolters presents the Journal’s first photo essay, which visually documents AIDS memorials since 1987, charting an evolution from informal grassroots projects to more formal, institutionally led approaches and making a case for their status as cultural heritage. Finally, in a co-authored paper the curators of the Science Museum’s new permanent exhibition Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries reflect on the main themes and questions that guided the exhibition development and consider what they learned for future projects.

Awards

Our congratulations goes to Tom Everrett for receiving the Canadian Museums Association 2020 Award of Outstanding Achievement for Research (science sector) for his article Writing sound with a human ear: reconstructing Bell and Blake’s 1874 ear phonautograph, which was published in Issue 12 of the Journal.

Books and articles

The highlight publication of Autumn 2018 was Being Modern: The cultural impact of science in the early twentieth century. Edited by the Science Museum Group’s own Research Keeper Robert Bud, along with co-editors Paul Greenhalgh, Frank James and Morag Shiach,and published by UCL Press, this major book was launched at the Science Museum in October 2018. It is the result of over three years of detailed collaborative research exploring the ways in which engagement with science has been seen as emblematic of modernity.Addressing the breadth of cultural forms in Britain and the western world from the architecture of Le Corbusier to working-class British science fiction, Being Modern paints a rich picture. Seventeen distinguished contributors from a range of fields including the cultural study of science and technology, art and architecture, English culture and literature examine the issues involved. You can purchase Being Modern here

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Recently published by Uniform Press is For Science, King & Country, edited by Roy MacLeod, Russell G Egdell and Elizabeth Bruton, the Science Museum’s Curator of Technology and Engineering. Killed in action at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles Campaign of 1915, aged just twenty-seven, Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley was widely regarded as the most promising British physicist of his generation. His pioneering measurements of X-ray spectra provided a firm basis for the concept of atomic number and re-cast the periodic table of the elements into its modern form. Had he survived, he seemed destined to win a Nobel Prize.

This book is a commemoration of Moseley’s life, work and legacy in which thirteen historians and scientists chart his experience of Manchester and Oxford; his military service; the reception of his work by the scientific community; and the impact of his work upon X-ray spectroscopy in physics, chemistry, and materials science. The book is available here.

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Invitation to contribute to the Journal

We invite scholars and museum professionals to submit original research, discussion or review papers relating to subjects that chime with the interests of the Science Museum Group and the wider science museum community for forthcoming issues of the Journal. Issue 15 (Spring 2021) has a deadline of 30 September 2020. Submission guidelines are provided on the ‘How to submit’ pages of the JournalIf you have general questions about article submission or if you would like to contribute an article, discussion or review piece please don’t hesitate to contact the editorial team at richard.nicholls@sciencemuseum.ac.uk

Subscribe

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The Dana Research Centre and Library

The Dana Research Centre is located in the Wellcome Wolfson Building at the rear of the Science Museum, in South Kensington, London. Opened in 2016, the Dana Research Centre aims to promote the Science Museum as an important centre for scholarly research and it is home to the Museum’s Research & Public History Department, and to the Museum’s students and funded research projects. The Centre also provides a library with a selection of books and journals, a reading room and public access to the Science Museum’s electronic resources. Here the public can access and order items from the Museum’s extensive and rich library and archive collections stored at Wroughton (the Group’s large storage facility near Swindon). Do come and visit us to pick up a library card and browse the collection. More details, including the address can be found here. General questions about Library aspects may be directed to nick.wyatt@sciencemuseum.ac.uk, and more general research programme enquiries to research@sciencemueum.ac.uk

Collaborative Doctoral Awards

Six projects within the Science Museums and Archives Consortium  (SMAC) start this year, including projects on the design mediation and consumption of Kenwood’s kitchen appliances, collecting the boundaries of art in the Science Museum, and, at the National Railway Museum, Between Worlds: Kenneth Cantlie and locomotive engineering in Africa, the Americas and Asia. 18 applications to the 2020 CDP round are now being assessed. We do recognize the challenges the pandemic presents to students, and their university and SMAC supervisors, and are working with other heritage partners to support them through this difficult time.

The Museum recently received AHRC Follow-on Funding for the project, Communicating Time and Culture. This builds on the findings of the original project Time, Culture and Identity, a collaboration between the Science Museum and the Palace Museum, China. It will fund a series of cultural events associated with the upcoming exhibition Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City and will allow us to engage different audience segments with the displays.

Please contact us at research@sciencemuseum.ac.uk if you wish to develop a proposal for future deadlines. Further details about the doctoral awards is given on the Science Museum’s Research and Public History webpages here. 

Research Seminars

The Science Museum’s Research & Public History department continues to support a range of workshops, conference and seminars. Full details of all future seminars will be published here soon.

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