Abstracts from the Universeum network meeting on “Innovative Museums of Science of the Future, a European Answer”, Tartu, 1-3 July 2005

Here are the abstracts from the Universeum network meeting (“Innovative Museums of Science of the Future, a European Answer”) held in Tartu, Estonia, 1-3 July 2005 What is going on with university collections in Europe? Brief overview and personal reflections Marta C. Lourenço (The Museum of Science, University of Lisbon) Knowledge about university museums and […]

Here are the abstracts from the Universeum network meeting (“Innovative Museums of Science of the Future, a European Answer”) held in Tartu, Estonia, 1-3 July 2005
What is going on with university collections in Europe? Brief overview and personal reflections
Marta C. Lourenço (The Museum of Science, University of Lisbon)

Knowledge about university museums and collections is crucial for the Universeum network, as well as for those concerned with university heritage in general. Sound knowledge should also drive policies and underpin action. Compared with only five years ago, university museums and collections are enjoying an increase of interest from universities, conferences of rectors, governments and European institutions. Although basic issues are rather similar across Europe, important information remains scattered and is not widely disseminated, thus deepening the sense of isolation among university museums and distancing all of us from the common goal of protecting and promoting university heritage. This communication aims at discussing the current state of knowledge about university museums and collections in Europe. It consists of two parts. In the first, recent initiatives, including new associations and projects, recent publications and relevant governmental actions at both national and European levels, are presented. The second part outlines common dilemmas and challenges faced by university museums and collections across Europe.

University Collections in Germany: Research on their Holdings and History. An Interim Report
Dr. Cornelia Weber (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Nearly every German university possesses scientific collections and museums in various departments. The exploration of these collections could reveal many valuable details regarding the history of science. However, university collections have not been considered an object of research in Germany to date and neither a complete survey of holdings, nor a fundamental interdisciplinary treatise on the history of university collections exists. The project intends to catalogue German universities’ collections and to compile extensive data on the holdings and the history of these collections, in order to form the basis of a specific investigation into the history of science and a historical analysis of collecting. The author of the paper wants to describe the project and to point out some particular issues for an international cooperation within the European network. Further information:

Engaging Audiences: Interpreting the Whipple’s collection for online visitors
James Hyslop, Boris Jardine and Lisa Newble (with help from Ruth Horry) (Staff of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge)

The Whipple Museum of the History of Science is internationally recognized as a preeminent collection of scientific instruments and models, dating from the Middle Ages to the present. The Whipple is currently creating a new greatly enhanced website offering historical accounts, as well as detailed information and images, of objects in our collection (with funding from the Designation Challenge Fund (DCF)). Because of the specialised nature of scientific instruments, the Whipple Museum faces the complex challenge of how to interpret the collection for its visitors to the website, many of whom will be unfamiliar with the instruments and how they are used. We recognise that our collection requires additional levels of explanation to reach a range of audiences, and therefore the new site will provide in-depth contextual background to our collection for both specialists and non-specialists. This will allow us to reach wider audiences than could be achieved through simply placing our database online. The new website will focus on three areas of the Whipple’s collection: astronomical instruments, microscopes and teaching models. In addition to interpreted collections information it will also feature specially designed learning-based activities. The site will present introductory information as well as cutting-edge research carried out on the collection by students and researchers within the University. Whipple staff engaged in various aspects of this project will introduce the new website to Universeum members, who will be encouraged to offer their comments and suggestions.

Twentieth century physics history and the heritage of Strasbourg University
Sébastien Soubiran (University Louis Pasteur of Strasbourg)

The University Louis Pasteur of Strasbourg entered a programme for the preservation of the heritage and the development of historical researches on the twentieth century physics in Strasbourg. This study focused on paper archives, as well as instruments and all kinds of materials related to the activity of physicists at the University of Strasbourg. This initiative is certainly unique in France where no dedicated centralized structure exists for the collection of scientific archives or scientific instruments. Moreover, few universities support a long term policy of collecting and preserving their scientific heritage, not even their scientific collections. To begin with, six physics laboratories or institutes have been chosen: the Institute of Physics, the astronomical Observatory, the Charles Sadron Institute (research on macromolecules), the Institute of Subatomic Research, the Institute of Physics and
Chemistry (magnetic and optical properties of materials), and the Laboratory for complex fluids dynamics. Those six departments represent most of the research in physics pursued at the University and its heritage. The aim of my presentation will be twofold. First, I will present the results obtained in terms of knowledge and the availability of the
heritage of the university. More precisely, I will focus on scientific instruments: astronomical instruments, physics instruments that had been collected, preserved and made available on online databanks (
Secondly, I will present the expectation in terms of general policy with regard to university collections linked to these first results on physics heritage and the setting of the “Jardin des Sciences”.

From five into one – problems connected to the merging of museum collections
Kati Heinämies (University of Helsinki)

When the former University Museum specialising in the history of the University of Helsinki, the Museum of Medical History, the Museum of the History of Veterinary Medicine, the Museum of the History of Dentistry and the Collections of Craft Science were merged in 2003 to form the Helsinki University Museum, the new organisation was faced with numerous practical problems. Each of the above-mentioned small museum collections had a different history, different systems of cataloguing and different collections policies which all had to be standardised. Some of the collections had been maintained by non-professional museum staff, thus catalogues, for example, were defective. In addition to the practicalities, emotional aspects had to be considered: the departments conveying their collections experienced feelings of separation distress, although none of them questioned the appropriateness of the merger.

Merger of Museums of the University of Tartu
Reet Mägi (The University of Tartu)

The aim of the presentation is to describe the merger of museums of the University of Tartu and also to explain its reasons and goals. The University of Tartu changed the status and structure of its museums at the beginning of 2005. The University History Museum, the Art Museum and the Natural History Museum were merged into one institution – the Museums of the University of Tartu. The main goals of the merger of the museums are to use the competence that we have in the University better, develop the museums in a coherent and professional way to make them a strong and visible complex of museums, achieve funding from the state. Before the structural change the Art and History museums had been separate university institutions. The Natural History Museum is a new unit that will consist of the former Museums of Zoology and Geology and the collections of botany and mycology of the Faculty of Biology and Geography. The formation of the Museum of Natural History will be carried out during the year 2005.

Interactive scientific exhibitions as one of the forms of innovatory activities in the Jagiellonian University Museum in Krakow
Stanisław Walto, Ewa Wyka (The Jagiellonian University Museum)

The Jagiellonian University Museum carries out several projects aimed at:
• the promotion of the University as a modern scientific institution
• the promotion of its scientific and cultural heritage
• livening up the Museum of the Jagiellonian University, its historical seat and popularising the collections.
How have these goals been achieved? Recently we have renovated the 14th century cellars being adapted for exhibitions and receptions with a cafeteria. We have also opened a new promotion centre with a reading room, where the latest University publications are available, and a screening room, where our visitors can watch a film about the history of the Jagiellonian University. The organisation of educational scientific exhibitions by the Museum staff is one of the most important innovatory activities. We regard such exhibitions as a challenge issued by:
• the need to acquaint our visitors with the laws of science and technology as a
supplementary teaching method
• the educational tradition of this place; until the 18th century the University of Krakow provided patronage for secondary education in Poland
• the historic infrastructure of the Museum, which is, on the one hand, a straightjacket we have to fit into, on the other, is a great attraction
• the educational environment of Krakow and the region.
Our wish is to establish a science museum in Krakow and we hope that such special exhibitions will encourage support from the city authorities.

(thanks to Reet Mägi, University of Tartu)