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February 2012

Åbne op for den æstetiske produktionsproces

By Biomedicine in museums

Klassisk musiker og musikleder Peter Hanke skriver indsigtsfuldt om behovet for at åbne kulturens sorte boks og se på hvordan klassisk musik produceres:

Hver uge arbejder 100 højtuddannede specialister sammen i et musikalsk laboratorium om at forstå dybden af civilisationens æstetiske mesterværker.

Denne interessante proces er skjult for publikum, som normalt først inviteres med ind, når produktet er salgsklart og smukt indpakket i overensstemmelse med koncertkulturens normer.

Arbejdsprocessen i symfonisk musik ligner mange andre professionelle processer, dvs. “udforskning, tvivl og kriser undervejs kan være uhyre interessante at bevidne, måske endda overgå oplevelsen af luksusproduktet ved afslutningen”.

Og derfor skal vi åbne op for den sorte boks:

I prøvelokalet kan musikalsk elite og befolkning mødes på lige vilkår. Og den mentale osteklokke kan åbnes uden tab af æstetisk storhed, men med enorme positive virkninger på dannelsesniveauet, hvis befolkningen inviteres til at overvære udforskningsprocesserne.

Behøver jeg at tillægge at samme argument selvfølgelig kan bruges for forskning og museumsvirksomhed? (Og at videnskabshistorikere og ‘science and technology studies’-forskere igennem de sidste 30-40 har arbejdet netop med at vise hvordan forskning produceres).


By Biomedicine in museums

6229 scientists have so far joined the boycot against Elsevier — see the boycot page here. They will not publish in any Elsevier journal, or will not referee articles for them, or will not do any editorial work.

It all started with mathematician Timothy Gowers open letter against Elsevier’s exorbitant prices, unreasonable subscription policy, and stubborn support for the Research Works Act.

It’s not just about one publisher that abuses the proprietary scientific journal system. Elsevier is the tip of the iceberg. Many scientists think the current century-old system of scientific publishing has reached its limits. What will replace it? Open access journals? A new kind of social media kind of platform? We don’t know — the future of scientific publishing is an exciting field for futuristic speculations.

(added 17 feb: see also Neil Stewart’s post on the LSAe Impact blog:

PS: An hour after I wrote this the number of signatures has increased to 6246.

(image by Michael Eisen)

Progress in medical science and technology?

By Biomedicine in museums

A couple of days ago, historian of science Rebekah Higgitt (curator at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and author of a very good book about 19C Newton-biographers), myself and some other historians of science had a Twitter discussion about whether there is progress in science, and, if so, what we might mean by it.

Now, Rebekah has taken the effort to collect the tweets and has posted them on her teleskopos history of science blog. The discussion speaks for itself, and I don’t want to dilute it by carrying it over here (but don’t hesitate to join it in teleskopos’ comment section).

What about medicine? Are there any arguments against the claim that medical science and medical technology makes progress?

Planning our Sensuous Investigation Room for close encounters with material things

By Biomedicine in museums

Careful readers of this blog may remember we opened an Investigation Room here at Medical Museion in connection with the Copenhagen Culture Night in October 2010.

The room originated on the initiative of postdoc Lucy Lyons as a public venue for her project on drawing as a method to communicate experience with museum objects:

Medical Museion’s Investigation Room opens
Postdoc Lucy Lyons inaugurates our Investigation Room, in which you can learn to see by means of drawing. You are invited to investigate selected artefacts from our collections with a pencil. We don’t care if you “can draw” or not; it’s about using the pencil to investigate physical objects.

The room was used on several occasions — both for sessions with the general public and in connection with a course in Medical Science and Technology Studies in early 2011, where Lucy taught students in the Medical Engineering BSc programme to sharpen their abilities to observe historical medical devices by means of drawing.

Now we’re planning to develop the Investigation Room further. The idea is to create a permanent space in the museum building, where students and the general public are allowed to view, handle and discuss physical museum objects as a way

  • to strenghten their ability to experience the immediate materiality of things through all senses, including vision, hearing, touch, smell etc..
  • to reflect about the use of material objects in the historiography of medicine and science communication.

In other words, we see the room also as a continuation of the succesful Sensuous Object workshop organised by Lucy last September.

But there are also some new research and curatorial projects who want to use the room for somewhat different purposes. For example, Jan Eric Olsén and our new PhD-student Emma Peterson are planning to use this or an adjacent room as a ‘Touch Room’, where they can investigate ideas about touch within the frame of their new Vision & Touch project.

PhD-student Anette Stenslund may be interested in using it for experiments with the experience of smell in museums settings. And curator Niels Christian Vilstrup-Møller and I are thinking about how we could use a room of this kind as a way of displaying some of the museum’s new acquisitions, especially from metabolic research. A kind of combined acquisition room and open storage.

And of course, we are thinking about how to use the room for the new event series ‘Body | Medicine | Object: Close encounters of the material kind’.

The plans for the new Investigation Room (or Object Lab, or Sensuous Workshop, or whatever we may call it) will be intensified during the spring. Tomorrow, we will discuss Jan Eric and Emma’s ideas for a ‘Touch Room’ and then we will bring other ideas from visiting curators.

There are lots of interesting initiatives around the world to learn from. A rather similar project is about to be launced at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University, where Steven Lubar and his colleagues are working on a combination of open storage, study center and seminar room, called CultureLab. They see the lab as a opportunity to display part of the museum’s collections but also to provide hands-on learning opportunities to students (see a couple of posts on Steven Lubar’s blog here, here, and here).

Another project we might learn from is the object handling and touch research project led by Helen Chatterjee at University College London (see H. Chatterjee, ed., Touch in Museums: Policy and Practice in Object Handling) — although we don’t have well-being as our primary aim, there may nevertheless be some interesting overlapping issues involved.