Medical Museion hosts a seminar series aimed at investigating current questions and problems facing science communication and museum practices in the light of the recent history of the biomedical sciences. The papers will present scholars working on material culture, science communication, medical science and technology studies and related fields. The Museion MUSE seminar series is part of a science communication/public engagement research project aimed at developing new research-based and experimental methods in science communication, as well as furthering theoretical engagements in this area.
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When and Where? Seminars will take place at 15.00-16.30 in the auditorium at Medical Museion at Bredgade 62, 1260 København K.
(see also Calendar)
Speaker: Massimiano Bucchi, professor of Science in Society, Università di Trento
Bringing “Science in the Kitchen” has become a very popular strategy to communicate science in books, games, science centres and TV shows. The ideology of ‘science in public’ lying behind this strategy is interesting for a number of reasons. It does not offer, as much ‘public science’ tries to do, ‘the wonderful’, ‘the miraculous’ or in general, something quite beyond the everyday experience, leaving the audiences with their mouth wide open. Rather, it inserts science into one of the fields that to the people’s experience most clearly embed everyday life: the kitchen. Thus, science colonizes an area that is generally recognized as the privileged territory of common sense. Scientific knowledge is not presented in antithesis to common sense, it does not seek to subvert it as it has become typical of public presentations of science especially since the huge public impact of this century’s revolution in physics. Science is here placed alongside common sense, ready to take it by the hand and ‘upgrade’ it by enlightening the theoretical significance of unconsciously adopted practices. Apparently only a curious and funny aspect, the presentation of cookery as science is revealing of a significant, although often neglected, ideology of the relationship between science and common science. Furthermore, when read in parallel with the complementary description of science as cookery in different historical contexts, it adds another important angle to our understanding of the strong connections existing between public communication of science and core scientific practice.
Speaker: Morgan Meyer, Post Doc, Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Mines ParisTech
Over the past few years there has been an interesting and intriguing development in several European museums: the idea to put research laboratories inside the museum and allow visitors a chance to encounter research in the making. In this paper, I will discuss three examples of such laboratories-in-the-museum: the open research laboratory in nanotechnology at the Deutsches Museum (Munich), an exhibition about “hot” and controversial topics in Vienna, and the current exhibition on biohacking at the Medical Museion (Copenhagen). In this paper I will be concerned with the changes that the laboratory undergoes when it is “spatially challenged” by being put into a museum. Through its move into an exhibition space we see a transformation of its social and material architecture; an extension of its object-world; and a change in, and multiplication of, the characteristics of science and technology.
I will suggest that the laboratory-in-the-museum does not only represent, display and explain a particular kind of space – the laboratory – but it is also designed to create space for dialogue and discussion about the laboratory and about science. Also, in contrast to traditional displays, these kinds of exhibitions operate two kinds of shifts: from a display that answers to a display that questions; and from an exhibition that represents existing matters to an exhibition that performs, creates, and experiments with new ones. The laboratory-in-the-museum thus potentially redraws the lines between essentially private and public space, between scientific research and science communication and between experiment and experience.
Speaker: Bruno J. Strasser, Professor, Didactique des Sciences, Biology Section and IUFE, University of Geneva. Adjunct professor, Yale University
March 8th: The Puzzle of Neolifism, the Strange Materiality of Regenerative and Synthetically Biological Things. Note seminar will start at 17.00
Speaker: Oron Catts, founder of SymbioticA Artistic Research Center at The University of Western Australia
In 1906 Jacques Loeb suggested making a living system from dead matter as a way to debunk the vitalists’ ideas and claimed to have demonstrated ‘abiogenesis’. In 2010 Craig Venter announced that he created “the first self-replicating cell we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer” the “Mycoplasma laboratorium” which is commonly known as Synthia. In a sense Venter claimed to bring Loeb’s dream closer to reality. What’s relevant to our story is that one of the main images Venter (or his marketing team) chose for the outing of Synthia was of two round cultures that looked like a blue eyed gaze; a metaphysical image representing the missing eyes of the Golem. These are the first bits of a jigsaw puzzle that will be laid in this talk. (…) Read more.
March 7th: Thinking with the Thalamus: Lobotomy and the Rhetoric of Emotional Impairment. Note seminar will start at 15.00
Speaker: Jenell Johnson, Dept. of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Although lobotomy is often remembered as an operation that diminished cognitive ability, its primary objective was to “blunt” strong emotion in persons diagnosed as mentally ill. In this talk, drawn from her forthcoming book American Lobotomy: A Rhetorical History, Jenell Johnson explores arguments for and against lobotomy in the early years of its use in the United States. She shows how the argument of emotional impairment that served as lobotomy’s scientific justification was mirrored in constraints on ethical deliberation regarding its clinical and social applications—constraints, she argues, that continue to shape the norms and boundaries of biomedical discourse.
Speaker: Sandra Dudley, University of Leicester, School of Museum Studies, Director of Exhibitions and Collections
This lecture considers some of the perspectives within the current interest in objects and materiality in museum contexts, before going on to exemplify aspects of the author’s own current work. Highlighting such issues as surface, qualia and displacement, the talk will discuss how this and other object-centred work augments and problematizes our understandings of museums, definable as those institutions are by their particular approaches to the conservation and re-contextualisations of things. Indeed, it will be argued, an object-centred view has profound implications for envisioning the possibilities of things.
September 6th: Curating time: new formats of public engagement at Wellcome Collection?
Speaker: Ken Arnold, Wellcome Collection
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We tend to think about museums and exhibitions in terms of things in space; and we largely define the exhibition maker’s role as that of skilfully judging what to place where. In this exploratory talk I want, instead, to think about how curators deal with time. Indeed, how they work with three types of time: the expectations we have about what visitors do during the time they share with us; the way we posit notions of historical time within our exhibitions; and the choices we make about how long our public projects run. I want to suggest that we need to spend more time thinking about the timing of what happens in museums.
June 1st, 2012: From the Body as Factory to Eating Information: A Short History of Metabolism
Speaker: Hannah Landecker, UCLA
Metabolism, understood as the chemical conversions of food into bodily matter and energy, has since its formulation as a scientific concept in the nineteenth century been a fundamental aspect of biochemistry, philosophies of life, and to a certain extent, social and political theories of the social body (continue reading).
Speaker: Lucy Lyons, Medical Museion
Artistic research is still seen as relatively new but its interventions within many fields define it as being a genuinely interdisciplinary mode of enquiry. Often employed as a useful method for reflecting on other research especially within the sciences, there is a great deal of evidence showing how technology and science impact on art. But how does artistic research impact on these other fields and beyond academic institutions? (continue reading)
April 25th, 2012: Examine first, ask what it is later: The multiple interpretations of 20th century scientific artifacts
Speaker: David Pantalony, University of Ottawa and Canada Science and Technology Museum Technology Collections
The questions of how to deal with artifacts from 1950 to the present is one of the more pressing challenges facing science museums today. Artifacts from this period do not easily escape from their official scientific and historical context (continue reading)
January 26th, 2012: From Material Culture to Material Heritage: History of Contemporary Science Beyond the Linguistic Turn
Speaker: Roland Wittje, University of Regensburg
Getting our hands dirty in the messy worlds of the laboratory and the storage room, and to entangle with the commemorative practices of scientists and technicians when it comes to contemporary material heritage, does not belong to the common experiences of historians of science. Studying contemporary laboratories and their materiality has so far been the domain of sociologists and ethnographers. Despite the recent ‘material turn’ in cultural studies, engagement with the material world often remains a linguistic exercise, extending at the utmost to an excursion to the sanitised and academically encultured world of the museum exhibit.
For historians of science, I argue, engaging with the ‘unfinished’ material world of contemporary science poses many opportunities. By taking the material seriously beyond the linguistic turn and exploring local university departments and their recent histories through their material heritage, we can observe everyday science and confront scientists and technicians’ cultures with those of historians. By engaging with recent material heritage, we can make an important contribution to enhancing awareness about this heritage, its implications for history writing, as well as its documentation and preservation.