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Biomedicine in museums

Great Archaeology of Contemporary Biomedicine Garbage Day

The Faculty of Health Sciences at our university has a “Great Clearance Day” on Thursday 21 June. The purpose is to prepare for the big faculty building reallocation exercise that is going to take place in the summer and early autumn. The faculty’s technical dept writes:

This will be the day when we will clear our shelves and the heaps that have accumulated in offices and laboratories over the years. Everything from old apparatuses and unused chemicals to documents and furniture can be removed (transl. from the Danish orig.)

As Jan Eric and Susanne pointed out the other day, this is a great opportunity to practice the archaeology of contemporary biomedicine — nay, even garbage archaeology, i.e., the kind of archaeology that studies today’s culture and society based on what people throw away. See, for example, William L. Rathje and Cullen Murphy’s Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage (1992).

(Or maybe in this particular case we should speak of a potential garbage archaeology (or garbage-in-the-making), because we would rather catch some of the stuff before it goes into the dustbins and containers rather than searching through the Müll afterwards.)

Anyway, plans are currently being made for a corresponding “Great Archaeology of Contemporary Biomedicine Garbage Day” on Thursday 21 June. The idea is to mobilise the whole Medical Museion staff to follow the clearence day activities closely, from early morning to late afternoon. And, if necessary, to intervene, to save all these gorgeous ten year old garbage-ripe PCR machines, ELISA- and electrophoresis apparatuses — or maybe even a revealing photo album from some laboratory Xmas party in the 1980s 🙂

We’ll be back with further details soonish — and perhaps also some further ‘garbological’ underpinnings as well.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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