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Biomedicine in museums

How do medical university museums relate to their local communities?

By January 11, 2008No Comments

Like many museums around the world, Medical Museion is owned by a university (University of Copenhagen); and like other university museums we are not only a player on the international academic arena but we also constitute a link between the university and the surrounding local and regional community. Our research projects are oriented towards an international audience, but our exhibitions are mainly visited by people from the Øresund region (the Copenhagen area, Malmö etc). 

Same with our internet activities. This blog is written in English for visitors from Chile in southwest to South Korea in northeast, while our website is in Danish.

I came to think about this balance between the global and the local when I read the recent call for papers to the 8th International Conference of University Museums and Collections (UMAC) to be held 16-20 September 2008 at the University of Manchester on the theme ‘University Museums and the Community’.

For much of their history, universities were elite learning environments, sheltered from the outside world by their ‘ivory towers’, and taking their model from the monastery. Since at least the 1960s, though, universities have been playing an increasingly important role in their local and regional communities. One of their early roles was to form extra-mural departments which offered courses to members of the public. More recently, universities have begun to recognize their cultural, economic and social role within their communities. Universities are often major employers; some historic universities play a major role in the tourist economy; and some make a significant contribution through spin-off companies formed as a way of bringing commercial applications to university research.

The theme of UMAC’s 8th International Conference therefore focuses on one of the most pressing issues today for university museums across the globe, which is how they can best act as two-way bridges between the world of the university and the many and varied communities, outside the university, within it in the form of students and staff using the museums in their leisure time, and the global ‘virtual’ community of the Internet.

Proposals are invited for the following five themes:

  • Public engagement with academic research
  • University museums and the internet community
  • The role of the university museum in community development (outreach,
    tourism, economic development, attracting diverse audiences etc)
  • The role of the university museum in formal and informal learning
    (i.e. schools, families)
  • Marketing to the university audience as leisure users (i.e. attracting
    academics and students visiting outside formal teaching and research

People are encouraged to send in proposals for workshop sessions and panels rather than conventional papers. More info here. Deadline for papers is 31 March 2008. 

(See also earlier post about museums between the global and the local here

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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