Report from Artefact meeting no. 13, October 5-7, 2008.
Artefacts was initiated in 1996 by the three institutions: the Science Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Deutsches Museum. The aim was and still is to promote a meaningful dialogue about the value of objects to serious studies of the history of science and technology. A wide variety of institutions (both museums and universities) have contributed over the succeeding years.
The Artefacts meeting this year was held in Washington, October 5-7. The topic was the relationship between Art and Science/Technology, as expressed through consideration of an artifact or a collection of artifacts. This topic encouraged a wide range of presentations; from the reception and use of the first Hammond Organs in Norway to mathematical paintings of the well-known author and cartoonist, David Crockett Johnson.
The encounter between art and science seems to be a never ending producer of the most interesting situations and artefacts. Take for example the new Artificial Tree Cellular Towers (se e.g. CBS’s report on the phenomenon), which was the topic of the presentation of professor Barney Mergen from Georg Washington University.
These ‘trees’ are so curious, they need to be seen (a wonderful exhibition object, but probably rather difficult to display unless you have a museum as big as e.g. National Air and Space Museum in Washington). A lot can be said on these ‘trees’. To me they incarnate the human’s ambivalence to technology – it seems that we can’t get enough of the new technologies as long as they don’t interrupt our carefully staged picture of a long gone ‘natural’ world with bird song, endless forests and cozy huts.