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Biomedicine in museums

Biomedicine on display — via the participatory web

I’ve promised to write a chapter with the provisional title ‘Biomedical curating and the participatory web’ for our planned joint project anthology with the (also provisional) title Curating Biomedicine: Collecting, writing and displaying contemporary medicine. Here’s the abstract of the chapter (to be included in the book proposal; we haven’t found a publisher yet):

For more than a decade, museums in general have been exploiting the Internet for making their collections and exhibition available online. In the last 4-5 years museums have also begun to explore the potentials of the participatory web (web 2.0) for drawing users more actively into the production of the heritage. In this chapter I will explore, one the one hand, how museums actively promote the use of the participatory web for curating purposes, and, on the other hand how the increasing online availablility of iconographic and textual information about artefacts (both physical artefacts, images and documents) on user-driven websites (blogs, flickr, etc) provides an extra-mural source of curated objects. In addition, the chapter will also explore the vast resources of curated artefacts that are avaliable through traditional websites, including product catalogues of medicotechnical companies. The chapter will 1) give a state-of-the art overview over the variety of ways in which biomedical objects are represented on the web, 2) discuss the potentials of the participatory web for turning the curation of biomedicine into a more dialogical process between professional curators and amateurs (scientists, engineers, medical doctors), and 3) discuss the prospects for a synergy between museums and the web with respect to curating contemporary medical objects vs. a possible conflict between web-based curating and traditional curating procedures in medical museums.

Science and medical blogs will of course loom large in this chapter. So, in the next of couple of weeks I will post some examples of blogs and other kinds of user-driven websites that display biomedical objects. Ideally, the accumulated posts will then add up to the final chapter — don’t hesitate to engage in a critical discussion of my rambling thoughts. 

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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