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October 2011

The sensuous dimension of scientific and technological objects

By Biomedicine in museums

Some of us here at Medical Museion have been talking about submitting a proposal for a workshop at the annual Swedish STS meeting, which Nina Wormbs, Sabine Höhler and Adam Netzén at the Division of History of Science and Technology are organising at the Royal College of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm 2-4 May next year.

The theme for the workshop is the sensuous dimension of scientific and technological objects, not only their visual qualities, but also the tactile, audible, and olfactory aspects of sci-tech-med things. The idea has grown out of some earlier experiences, like the presentation on exploring and curating medical objects with the sense of touch
that Jan Eric Olsén and I gave at the Artefacts meeting in Oslo in 2007, and the succesful Sensuous Object workshop, which Lucy Lyons organised here at Medical Museion last September.

In other words, the idea is not only to talk about objects, and show images of them, but to actually present them to the senses. Call it aesthetically and theoretically aware curatorship if you like.

That session aside, the organising committee want submission of proposals, both for individual papers and entire panels. They are thematically open to all kinds of STS-related fields (from history, sociology, and philosophy of science, technology, and environment, etc.), and they also seek suggestions for alternative formats (such as roundtables debating the hotspots issues or author-meets-critic sessions on recent publication). Send >400 word proposals to by 15 February (which is also the email address for inquiries).

Collection Impossible: Distributed curatorship and crowd-sourcing as alternatives to centralised collecting

By Biomedicine in museums

Let me start with a quote:

We need to acknowledge at the outset that museums are in the object acquisition business. New acquisitions are the lifeblood of museums. Like sharks that will die if they stop swimming, museums must collect to stay alive.

These were the words of Tufts University art historian Andrew McClellan in a book review a couple of years ago — words that echo Robert Anderson’s in an interview after he retired as director of the British Museum:

Acquisitions are the lifeblood of museums … The identification of significant material, which has perhaps been overlooked, is something that gives energy to museums.

I couldn’t agree more. The acquisition of new artefacts is for museums what empirical studies and new data are for universities. Imagine if scientists’ and scholars didn’t have access any more to empirical data — the universities would then recede into scholasticism. Similarly, museums that don’t acquire new artefacts for curation and display will recede into mausoleums.

So collect, collect, collect. There are many of us who think this should be the clarion call for all museums that want to stay alive.

In real museum life, however, collecting new artefacts from the contemporary world is often pretty far down on the priority list. Why? In a discussion paper a couple of years ago, Christian Sichau, then curator at Deutsches Museum, identified three circumstances that often make museums downgrade their collecting efforts:

• The political focus on blockbuster shows, events, and the web puts the collecting and preservation of the contemporary material heritage in the shadow.

• Exhibition curators often don’t know what to do with contemporary objects, because such objects don’t have the spectacular qualities that older artefacts have

• Museums notoriously have limited storage facilities, so curators reject donations and new acquisitions for lack of space.

Which made Sichau conclude that, when confronted with a potential new item for the collections, he would usually have to say ‘no’ (“werde ich, als Kurator, ‘Nein’ sagen müssen’).

I guess most of us can sympathise with this pessimistic view on collecting. But I don’t think we need to be so defaitistic after all. It all depends on how the problem of collecting contemporary science, technology and medicine is framed.

If we think about collecting the contemporary heritage as something done by professional curators employed in state-financed museum institutions, and then safely placed in centralised museum storage facilities — then Sichau is right, of course.

Because even if museums could find ways of making the contemporary world of science, tech and medicine palatable to their visitors, they would never be able to employ enough professional curators to describe, register, and evaluate the avalanche of artefacts and images that are produced and used today— and we would surely not have the space to keep them for future generations.

But I don’t think Sichau’s pessimistic frame for collecting is the only alternative. My aim with this presentation is to shift the frame. Instead of saving the contemporary heritage in terms of professional curators and museum institutions, I think such rescue operations are better pursued in terms of distributed curatorship and curatorial crowdsourcing.

I guess most of you are familiar with what crowdsourcing stands for:

Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones (from here).

Crowdsourcing comes in many varieties. Some people consider Wikipedia a splendid example of crowdsourcing, although the founder, James Wales, seems to disagree. More specific examples from our own fields include:

Foldit — a citizen science project, which engages hundreds of thousands of people to play games to help optimize the three-dimensional structure of proteins; a project which has recently resulted in an article in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology written by scientists and gamers together.

The Great War Archive project at the University of Oxford in which members of the general public digitised artefacts from the First World War and uploaded them to a purpose built website (over 6500 items and stories were published online) and they have now received funding from Europeana to run a similar crowdsourcing initiative in Germany.

And there are many others, e.g., Galaxy Zoo, which engages hundreds of thousands of amateur astronomers to classify galaxy images from the Hubble telescope.
I think we can learn a lot from these and similar crowdsourcing projects.

One of the consequences of shifting the frame for saving the contemporary heritage is that the notion of ‘curator’ changes to include a significant portion of the crowd of scientists, engineers, medical doctors, lab technicians and nurses. They must be seen as curators in their own right. They have the expertise. They know what these things have been used for. They know the technical details. A frame-shift implies that the crowd has to take the main burden of saving, collecting and curating the exploding number of artefacts from contemporary science, technology and medicine.

An immediate counter-argument would be that “in my museum we’ve been consulting scientists, engineers and medical people all the time”. But that’s not the point. The point is not to continue using external professionals as mere assistants to the museum professionals. The point is to train them to become curators in their own right.

Distributed curatorship doesn’t by itself solve the problem of space. On the contrary, it seems to accelerate the problem. I shudder at the thought of having hundreds of medical engineers sending in thousands of well-curated medical devices to Medical Museion each year. We would soon be flooded with medical devices.

But being ‘flooded’ is only a problem as long as we think in terms of the traditional framing of the problem, that is, thinking of collections as physically located in the storage rooms of a central museum building. An alternative framing of the problem is that if curators and curating can be distributed, so can their collections. (And beware, I’m not talking about distributing already existing centralized museum collections from the last 500 years, but about how to store the avalanche of things from contemporary science, technology and medicine.).

So in addition to thinking about the contemporary heritage in terms of distributed curatorship, I suggest we also shift the frame from centralised museum collections to distributed museum collections, each managed by its own local curator.

In this scenario, what would the role of the professional museum-based curator be in collecting the contemporary heritage? There are lessons to learn from history (I mentioned biological standardisation in the 1950s in my abstract), and there are also lessons to learn from contemporary crowdsourcing projects: What the professional astronomists do in Galaxy Zoo and the biophysicists do in Foldit is that they inspire, train and coach the crowd of amateur curators. Similar relations exist between professional and amateur botanists, and so forth.

In other words, instead of spending their time on collecting and curating inside the walls of the museum building, museum-employed curators should rather spend most of their time:

• Helping organize the crowd’s work in the field.

• Developing guidelines for the collecting, curating and handling of artifacts.

• Developing protocols for registration in wiki-based collection databases and secure the quality of the metadata.

• Developing the theoretical and cultural perspectives on collecting and raise discussions among the network of distributed curators about why the scientific, technological, and medical heritage is worth keeping and the role of the heritage in the creation of cultural identity.

The last point is what I think is the most important one, because in doing so, museum curators will hopefully help raise the awareness in the scientific, technological and medical communities about the importance of saving the artefacts of contemporary science, technology and medicine for the future (this is what I call heritagemindedness in the abstract to this presentation). Here too Foldit and Galaxy Zoo are inspirational: Never before in history have so many people been engaged in understanding proteins; never have there been so many amateurs deeply engaged in astronomy and cosmology.

Let me end by saying that much of what I suggest isn’t particularly new. Many local and regional museums have worked along these lines long before the notion of the participatory museum was coined. Many big science, technology, and medical museums once started as participatory collecting projects initiated by enthusiastic practitioners, who created small local collections of what was then contemporary artefacts, some of which still remain in the custody of departments and scientific societies.

Medical Museion is a case in point. Today the museum has one of Europe’s largest, richest, and most varied collections of medical artefacts of all kinds — but actually it once started as a private initiative by Copenhagen doctors on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Danish Medical Association in 1907. Initially conceived as a collection of contemporary medical devices for a temporary exhibit to commemorate the progress of medicine, the collection was made permanent and the museum continued to grow, largely thanks to the enthusiasm of the contributors, and it continued to do so for at least two or three generations. It was the amateurs who saved the medical heritage. The state museums couldn’t care less.

Today, from the vantage point of professional science, technical, and medical museums, such initiatives may look amateurish and antiquated. But the thrust of my argument is that the enormous amounts of artefacts produced and used in contemporary science, technology and medicine, combined with the financial crisis of the modern welfare state, will force museums to rethink the role of the amateurs.

It’s not so much a question of inventing a new curatorial practice, but rather to return to the basic idea of participatory acquisition practices that have largely been abolished in the short historical period when museums could live well on state subsidy. Now we have to go back to business as usual.

Here social media come into the picture. They offer a social technology that can rejuvenate this old practice of distributed curatorship. Social media embody the new role of amateurs in knowledge formation, and they will undoubtedly play a central role for organising curatorial crowdsourcing and distributed curatorship of the contemporary scientific, technological and medical heritage. But that’s the topic of another presentation, at another meeting.

This is the manuscript for my presentation at the Artefacts meeting, Boerhaave Museum, Leiden, 25-27 September 2011 — see also the programme for the Artefacts meeting and my live-tweets from the sessions.

The presentation draws partly on my paper “The participatory museum and distributed curatorial expertise” in NTM: Zeitschrift für Gescichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin, vol. 18 (1), pp. 69-78 (2010)


Speeches at the opening of the 'Balance and Metabolism' gallery and the 'Genomic Enlightenment' installation

By Biomedicine in museums

Thursday 13 October we opened a new gallery (Balance and Metabolism) and a new art installation (Genomic Enlightenment). Here are the opening speeches by Vice-Dean Birthe Høgh, Faculty of Health Sciences, Thomas Söderqvist. and Adam Bencard, who curated the exhibition:

Vice-Dean Birthe Høgh:

It’s a pleasure for me to take part in the opening of two new exhibitions at Medical Museion. Since we’re a mix of Danish- and English-speaking guests this afternoon, I will continue in English.

Our faculty — the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Copenhagen — lives very much in the present. But with a keen eye both to the future and to the past.
At the main campus on Blegdamsvej we are about to build a new, 16 stories high, medical science tower (Panumtårnet), designed by one of the leading Danish architects, C.F. Møllers tegnestue, where the faculty’s new research centres for metabolism, stem cells and ageing will be placed. That’s the medical faculty of the future.

But looking forward doesn’t mean we have lost our sense of the past. We are proud of our past. We are right now sitting in the old anatomical theatre in the faculty’s oldest building, the Royal Surgical Academy building from 1787, designed by the then famous royal architect Peter Meyn. For more than 150 years this was the most important building in Danish medical science – many generations of medical doctors were trained here.

This building now harbours the medical faculty’s museum – a museum which tries to connect the past with the present and the future. You enter an old building that vibrates with 225 years of medical history. But when you enter some of the new exhibition rooms, you can almost imagine being moved into a high-tech medical scientific laboratory.

For example, when you came in through the main entrance, you were met by the art installation Genomic Enlightenment, which is made from gene chips that have recently been used in large co-operatlve research project between scientists here at the faculty’s Center for Metabolic Research and the world’s largest genomic sequencing facility, BGI in Shenzhen in China. The art installation hangs from the ceiling in a room designed back in 1787 – but the technology — and the prospects this technology brings to us — points to some of the most exciting aspects of medicine in the future – the possibility of looking into, and even altering, our genetic destiny.

And in a few minutes you will be the first to see a new exhibition, which builds bridges between the past, the present and the future in exciting new ways. Called “Balance and Metabolism”, this new exhibition presents two very different ways of understanding the body:

On the one hand, the classical humoral body, which dominated medical thinking for more than 2000 years, from Hippokrates to the mid 19th century. And on the other hand the chemical body, which is the body that medical science has its focus on today.

With the art installation “Genomic Enlightenment” and the exhibition “Balance and Metabolism” Medical Museion is taking yet another step towards the fulfillment of its ambition to become one of the leading experimental medical museums in the world. Last year Medical Museion received the prestigious Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits, and a few weeks ago the museum was the fourth Danish museum ever to become member of the Best in Heritage Club of Excellence, which only has 120 members altogether in the world.

I am very proud of the fact that the Faculty of Health Sciences and the University of Copenhagen have such an internationally recognized museum among its many departments. I am looking very much forward to seeing the new exhibition and I hope it will receive much attention and thereby contribute to the aim of our faculty’s science communication programme – to create a cultural climate in which medical science will flourish; a cultural climate that is enriched by public engagement with the challenges and excitements of contemporary biomedicine.

Museum Director Thomas Söderqvist:

Today we are launching two new products in our museum portfolio.

Both the installation you saw in the entrance hall (“Genomic Enlightenment”) and the new “Balance and Metabolism” gallery in the neighbouring rooms (which you will soon be able to see) are examples of a new exhibition strategy that we are now implementing here at Medical Museion.

Instead of planning one big temporary exhibition after the other (plus the obligatory permanent galleries) – we have now started a process of what I call “flexible turnover”.

We have 25 or more big and small rooms in this building (and at least as many in the other buildings in the whole building complex here in Bredgade) – and “flexible turnover” means that we are now successively filling these rooms with small, thematic exhibits and galleries that can stand 2-5 years before they are replaced.

So the idea is not to do what the National Museum, for example, is doing when they fill most of the ground floor with a grand chronological narrative of Danish pre-history.

We don’t believe, as firmly as they do, in grand narratives. Actually, we don’t want to be a Grand Museum, even if we had the economic muscles to be one.

Instead we want to put all these big and small rooms at the disposal for exhibition makers of all kinds – designers, architects, historians, scientists, medical professionals, artists etc. – and provide spaces for them to develop their own exhibition ideas in dialogue with us.

The art installation “Genomic Enlightenment” is a case in point. The idea for the installation came up last November in when I sat in a meeting with professor Oluf Borby Pedersen from the new Center for Basic Metabolic Research. Oluf told us how he was using a brand new kind of gene chips for studying the genetic variation behind metabolic diseases, like obesity and type 2 diabetes – a co-operative project between his research group and BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) in Shenzhen in China, the largest genomic sequencing facility in the world.

This was a fantastic oppourtunity. This was the perfect material for an ad hoc art-science installation:
– People at the BGI were enthusiastic and immediately shipped 700 gene chips that had just came fresh out of the sequencing machines.
– Fortunately one of our favourite exhibition architects, Mikael Thorsted, was available at the moment, and we immediately started discussing different way of hanging them in fiber optic cable from the ceiling.
– The manufacturer of the chip itself, the San Diego-based genomic sequencing company Illumina was already involved in a scientific conference on genomics to be held a few months later – and were interested in sponsoring the installation in connection with the conference reception held in this building.

That’s the way it should be in a university museum. Universities are by their very nature experimental, they are always testing new ideas, seeking new knowledge, utilizing opportunities for new and exciting projects.

And their museums should be experimental too. I believe university museums should provide spaces into which designers, artists, researchers from the health sciences, medical companies, and many others are invited to develop new ways of using the exhibition format for public engagement with science. And like in this case, even make installations and exhibitions about science in the making, science which haven’t even been published yet.

The “Genomic Enlightenment” installation and the new gallery on “Balance and Metabolism” we are opening today have both been curated by staff here at Medical Museion. The next exhibit – on surgery and metabolism – has also been conceived in-house.

But we are keen to get proposals from the outside to fill the remaining 20 rooms in the building. Call it museum crowdsourcing if you want. So if you have a good idea, please let us know.

Which brings me to my final point, namely that we are very grateful to the following private sponsors and foundations, who have made “Genomic Enlighenment” and “Balance and Metabolism” possible:

“Genomic Enlightenment” is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation through the Center for Basic Metabolic Research, and by a sponsorship from the UK branch of Illumina.

“Balance and Metabolism” is supported by Assens Foundation, which operates together with the Danish company Biofarma Logistik, and supports studies in medical history, and by the Novo Nordisk Foundation (also through the Metabolism Center).

Without the generous support of these foundations and sponsors we wouldn’t be here today.

Also, we are very grateful to the Campus Service departments at the Faculty and the University for setting funds aside for renovation of the two rooms, where we have now placed “Balance and Metabolism”, and to the decorator Peter Thylander and his crew for their professional work in returning these rooms back to their original 1787 atmosphere. The 18th century royal architect Peter Meyn would probably have accepted having an exhibition of the humoural body in these rooms, but he would never have dreamt of having a chemical body placed in them.

That’s all from me – thank you.

Assistant Professor Adam Bencard:

Det er en særlig fornøjelse at stå her i auditoriet i det gamle kirurgiske akademi og fortælle om den udstilling, vi åbner i dag – en udstilling, der viser to forskellige forståelser af kroppen i medicinen. For kroppen er, helt bogstaveligt, blevet åbnet og dissekeret lige her. Den er blevet forklaret og undersøgt af generationer af læger og kirurger i disse rum – faktisk er det ene udstillingsrum det rum, hvor kroppene blev klargjort til undervisnings- og demonstrationsbrug. Kroppen har bogstaveligt talt ligget til undersøgelse lige her.

I udstillingen Balance og Stofskifte er det også kroppen, der er genstand for undersøgelse, om end på en lidt mindre blodig facon. Da vi for et års tid siden begyndte arbejdet med udstillingen, viste jeg, at jeg gerne ville udnytte muligheden for at arbejde med emnet kropsforståelse – jeg ville gerne lave en udstilling, der havde vores uofficielle – ”museet for dem, der har en krop” – som udgangspunkt.

Men i stedet for at åbne brystkasser og kigger under huden, så har vi lavet en udstilling, der forsøger at lirke op for to forståelser af kroppen i medicinen – en humoral kropsforståelse, der har rødder i Antikken og som fokuserer på balance og som ser kroppen som et system af væsker; og en kemisk forståelse af kroppen, der starter med den organiske kemi i starten af 1800-tallet, og som i dag med molekylærbiologien er blevet en udforskning af selve livets kemiske grundvilkår.

Udstillingen er ikke som udgangspunkt lavet for at give en pædagogisk introduktion til hvad kroppen er, sådan i lærebogsforstand. Den er snarere et forsøg på at bruge genstande fra medicinens historie og nutid til at sætte fokus på de måder som lægevidenskaben er med til at forme vores opfattelse af os selv og den krop, vi har.

For medicinen og sundhedsvidenskaben spiller en afgørende rolle i dannelsen af vores kropsforståelser – den er en uomgængelig del af vores fælles kulturramme.

Lægevidenskaben træder ikke bare ind i vores liv når vi er syge og forlader os når vi bliver raske igen. Nej, den er med til at forme forståelsen af kroppen, både på det helt personlige plan, for hver enkelt af os, og hele vejen op til de mest generelle samfundsstrukturer – alt fra vores politik den møde vi forstår os selv på og møder hinanden. Lægevidenskaben er også kropskultur og kropspolitik.

Lægevidenskabens forståelser af kroppen kommer under huden på os.

Det har været tydeligt at mærke det forløbne år mens arbejdet med udstillingen har stået på. Efterhånden som jeg dykkede ned i henholdsvis den humorale og den kemiske krop, så begyndte det at smitte af på mine kropsoplevelser. Når jeg var stresset så følte jeg cortisonet og adrenalinet pumpe rundt i systemet med efterfølgende hjertebanken og klamme håndflader. Når jeg fandt en god ting på magasinerne, eller vi i udstillingsholdet fandt en god løsning på et problem i samarbejde i udstillingslokalerne, så vandrende jeg rundt på en blød dopaminsky i et stykke tid. Min krop blev kemisk for mig. Men samtidig havde den humorale model også sine effekter. Når jeg stod med snue og hovedet fyldt med snot og slim, så var der intet jeg hellere ville have en udrensende behandling, og jeg pakkede mig ind i varme trøjer for at modvirke den flegmatiske kulde. Og fokus på balancen, ikke mindst. Og på livsstil.

De kropsforståelser, vi bliver præsenteret for, spiller ind i de måder vi oplever og fortolker vores egen krop. De bliver en del af os, de kommer under huden. Og de har det med at blive usynlige for os, fordi de kommer så tæt på. Og det er en af grundene til, at vi her i huset ser på sammensmeltningen af medicin og kultur som en af vores vigtigste opgaver, og som denne udstilling er et lille skridt i arbejdet med.

Vi har forsøgt at lave en udstilling, der tager udgangspunktet i kroppen alvorligt, og derfor engagerer sanserne først. Vi har forsøgt at lave en opstilling, der engagerer beskuerens fantasi og nysgerrighed, efterhånden som man går rundt og ser på genstandene. Og vi håber, at udstillingen, netop ved at engagere sanserne og kroppen kan få beskuerens personlige kropsforståelser i tale. For vi har alle sammen en lang række af kropsforståelser, der cirkulerer usynligt rundt i vores indre system – uanset om det er humoralt, kemisk eller noget helt tredje.

Vi startede for et årstid siden, med to helt nyistandsatte og meget bare rum. Der har været en lang og interessant proces at finde balancerne mellem genstande, tekst og udstillingsdesign, og vi har været mange, der har investeret tid, faglighed og engagement i alle faser af udstillingen. Derfor vil til slut vil jeg meget gerne lige bruge lejligheden og talerstolen til at sige tak til dem, der har været en ligeså stor del af arbejdet med udstillingen som mig – tak til arkitekt Mikael Torsted, tak til konservator Nanna Gerdes, tak til museumsinspektør Niels Vilstrup Møller, tak museumsinspektør Bente Vinge Pedersen, tak til vores leder, Thomas Söderqvist, tak til Sven Erik Hansen for råd og faglig diskussion og i det hele taget tak til alle her på Medicinsk Museion.


The productivity of intellectual enemies

By Biomedicine in museums

I started the day in a really bad mood, but woke up and became excited when I saw the announcement of a lecture series at Goldsmiths in London titled “My best fiend” — a series of talks aimed at investigating the productivity of intellectual enmities. Schoolars have been invited to reflect on their academic enemies, i.e., not only persons, but also movements, disciplines and concepts.

As the organisers point out:

Enemies are productive. They spark interest, they draw energy, people care about them and they care about us. Why else would people spend time denouncing this badly formulated concept of an esteemed colleague, decrying the neighbouring discipline that keeps misunderstanding the world, or keep on writing bad tempered footnotes about this mistaken theory – and thereby become complicit in this very unproductivity? Why do scholars choose this enemy and not another?

Enemies also often involuntarily direct ones thinking, researching and theorising. If an enemy posits a, people feel compelled to posit b. If she writes approvingly of c, we need to denounce it. An enemy can have more power over people’s thinking than they would probably like to have it. It is as if people are guided in their thinking not only from their research object, but by an unknown field of do’s and don’t’s, accumulated since the time of their studies, of where to go and look and where not to look.

The series starts on Tuesday 1 November with a talk by Liz Moor on “Reflections on the Genesis of Intellectual Fiends”; she is followed by Harry Collins on “Good and Bad Arguments: With Friends, Idiots and People Without Integrity”, David Oswell “Dances with Wolves: Latour, Machiavelli and Us”, and Steve Fuller: “Bruno Latour: and some Notes on some also rans”. Wish I were in London!! More here

Waiting for medical museums to become less apolitical

By Biomedicine in museums

I’ve just wiped the whiteboard in the lunch room — but only after having jotted down what we wrote during an intensive brainstorm session some time ago, triggered by the recent ICOM-konference on museums and politics in Copenhagen.

  • Why are museums often so apolitical? Why are medical museums even more so? Why is our museum pronouncedly devoid of any views on the political aspects of biomedicine? After all, biomedicine is very important political stuff.
  • What does it mean to be ‘political’ in a university museum context? Is it just another way of living up to the usual dinner speech oratory about the social vision of universities?
  • Are the historical collections really a potent resource for understanding the politics of contemporary and future medicine? Or does a too strong focus on the historical artefacts make us blind to the present, turning us into conservatives with respect to the contemporary medical world and the future of medicine?
  • Right now, our museum seems to be caught in a contradiction between a deep fascination of the aesthetics of material and visual things and a potential for contributing to the intellectual and political discussion about future biomedical scenarios. Can our current passion for materiality and aesthetics be articulated in a political context as well?
  • Can a love for things and images of the past co-exist with a politically conscious approach to medicine as a ‘civilisational force’ (whatever that is). Can biopolitics include a passion for material things?
  • Is there a risk for us to go too deep into web design, artefact fascination, art installations and sensuous experiences? When did we last have an interesting seminar about the future prospects of biomedicine?
  • As a museum we should raise the politics of biomedicine in the public sphere. It shouldn’t be left to article-producing academics, science journalists and bloggers. As a university museum we have not only the right to engage with the politics of biomedicine, but a duty to do so.

Støtte fra Arbejdsmarkedets Feriefond til udstilling …

By Biomedicine in museums

Bestyrelsen for Arbejdsmarkedets Feriefond (AFF) har lige offentliggjort deres afgørelse om bevillinger af støtte til en række ansøgere. Medicinsk Museion var en af de i alt 11 institutioner, de fleste museer, som fik støtte her i efteråret.

Vi har fået et tilsagn om tilskud på kr. 4.735.000 til opbygning og indretning af en ny udstilling samt tilsagn om tilskud kr. 605.000 til lønudgifter til en personlig formidler svarende til 70 pct. af lønudgiften i en toårig periode.

Og hvad skal den nye udstillingen så handle om? Det vil vi afsløre her på denne side om ikke så længe …

PS — men udstillingsområderne er fortsat åbne

By Biomedicine in museums

PS: Lukningen af adgangen til samlingerne gælder kun udlån, besvarelse af forespørgsler, salg af billeder m.m. — dvs. aktiviteter som udføres af det personale, der arbejder med genstandssamlingerne, billedarkivet, arkivet og biblioteket.

De offentlige udstillingerne er fortsat åbne, og der kan fortsat bestilles omvisninger, ligesom auditoriet kan bookes til møder, PhD-forsvar, etc. Her er det ‘business as usual’.

Pga vandskaden kan vi foreløbigt ikke udlåne eller modtage genstande, besvare forespørgsler eller sælge billeder

By Biomedicine in museums

Det voldsomme regnvejr d. 2. juli medførte alvorlige vandskader på Medicinsk Museions samlinger (se bla. her). Det har krævet en stor indsats af museets ansatte og krævet mange ressourcer at få genstande, arkivalier og billeder tørret. Den umiddelbart truende ødelæggelse er dermed afværget.

Nu forestår der et omfattende opfølgende arbejde for at udføre den efterfølgende behandling med at rense og konservere materialet og foretage ompakning, kontrol af registreringsoplysninger og ny placering i sikre magasiner. Det er nødvendigt for at sikre materialet for fremtiden og for at gøre det tilgængeligt for udstillinger, undervisning, forskning og udlån til andre museer.

Opfølgningsarbejdet vil tage tid og vil involvere en række af museets samlingsmedarbejdere. Derfor har vi desværre set os nødsaget til indføre et midlertidigt stop for

  • Modtagelse af genstande, arkivalier og billeder
  • Besvarelse af forespørgsler af enhver art
  • Udlån af genstande m.v.
  • Salg af billeder

i perioden 21. september 2011 — 1. april 2012.

Vi vil vende tilbage med nyheder om hvordan arbejdet med at genoprette samlingerne fremskrider.

Vi håber på jeres forståelse i denne ekstraordinære situation.

Mange hilsner

Thomas Söderqvist

Er det nu så smart at koordinere ansøgninger indenfor museumsforskning?

By Biomedicine in museums

Nu har Dansk Center for Museumsforskning fået gang i deres hjemmeside.

Centret er et formaliseret samarbejde mellem en lang række institutioner, der har en eller anden form for interesse i museumsforskning: Center for Naturvidenskabernes og Matematikkens Didaktik, Syddansk Universitet; Det Informationsvidenskabelige Akademi; Institut for Historie, Kultur og Samfundsbeskrivelse, Syddansk Universitet; Institut for Kommunikation, Aalborg Universitet; Institut for Kommunikation, Virksomhed og Informationsteknologier, Roskilde Universitet; Institut for Kultur og Identitet, Roskilde Universitet; Institut for Kunst- og Kulturvidenskab, Københavns Universitet; Institut for Litteratur, Kultur og Medier, Syddansk Universitet; Institut for Miljø, Samfund og Rumlig Forandring, Roskilde Universitet; Institut for Naturfagenes Didaktik, Københavns Universitet; Institut for Psykologi og Uddannelsesforskning, Roskilde Universitet; og Institut for Æstetiske Fag, Aarhus Universitet (associeret medlem) — og med professor Kirsten Drotner på Syddansk Universitet som formand (og initiativtager vil jeg tro).

De forstår museumsforskning bredt som forskning i kunst, kultur- og naturarv samt i formidling af denne arv i forhold til fysiske og virtuelle rum — på museer, arkiver og aktivitetscentre inden for naturvidenskab og teknik. Formålet et at bidrage til “den strategiske udvikling af museumsforskningen nationalt og internationalt”, at “stimulere videnskabelig kvalitetsudvikling ved at afholde workshops, seminarer og konferencer” og at “stimulere internationalt samarbejde mellem centret og tilsvarende miljøer og institutioner på nordisk, europæisk og videre internationalt plan”. Man vil også “udvide de økonomiske rammer for museumsforskning gennem koordinering af ansøgninger til råd og fonde”.

Det er et glimrende initiativ og vi må håbe at centret vil kunne bidrage til at udvikle museumsforskningen i landet og at skaffe flere ressourcer til feltet. Men jeg er ærligt talt skeptisk til ambitionen at “koordinere ansøgninger til råd og fonde”. Det betyder jo i klarsprog at politiske og personlige forbindelser vil risikere at få for stor indflydelse på hvilke ansøgninger, der bliver sendt videre i fondssystemet. For at styrke kvaliteten på dansk museumsforskning burde man istedet satse på konkurrens helt fra bunden. Vi ser samme kedelige tendens på universiterne, hvor en del større ansøgninger bliver produceret ved byzantinske interne politiske processer.

PS: Centret inviterer til seminar i København den 6. oktober — om dramatiseret museumsformidling med oplæg af Ingrid Vatne og Connie Svabo — men desværre er tilmeldingsfristen udløbet.