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Biomedicine in museums

How do we exhibit globalisation of medical technology?

By December 19, 2011No Comments

Most science, technology and medical museum collections have been brought together from nationally located sources, and are usually described and displayed as national treasures. And most large STM museums still define themselves (and are financed) as truly national museums — Deutsches Museum in Munich, the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, the Norwegian Science and Technology Museum in Oslo, and many others.

But that traditional nationalistic approach tends to forget that technology is intimately bound up with globalisation. Not only has cultural and economic globalisation been a major factor behind technology development — technological change has also to a large extent driven globalisation. Some would even say that technology is the major factor behind globalisation: information- and communication technologies are just a contemporary example. Genomic sequencing technologies is another, less well known.

So it’s a great to see that our colleagues Bryan Dewalt (at the Canada Science and Technology Museum) and Nina Möllers (at the Deutsches Museum) are now taking the initiative to edit a volume tentatively titled Objects in Motion: Globalizing Technology for publication in 2013.

The focus of the volume will be on how globalisation has been materialised in technological objects, and they are therefore asking for contributions that “examine machines, appliances and large systems in the (global) networks through which they have circulated”:

Although technological consumer objects such as phones, PCs and frozen foods are frequently named when globalizing effects are described, artefacts often disappear in public and scholarly debates. Yet, by their double nature as both material entity and symbol, they produce, re-produce and react to globalizing effects. While generations of historians of technology have focused on the materiality of objects in the sense that they have analyzed their innovative technical character, their operation modes and ‘improvements’, recent paradigm shifts have resulted in a more integrative approach to technical material culture. Artefacts are increasingly understood as embodying both a material and immaterial side that goes beyond their mere modes of functioning into the social and cultural realm. Concurrent with that is the acknowledgment that technological objects need to be studied in view of increasingly globalized production and consumption cycles. While the globalized world has changed the ways that technological objects have been engineered, built and sold, it similarly has changed how they have been perceived and appropriated as consumer goods and symbols.

One of the proposed themes of the planned book is ‘Globalization and Museums’: As they say: “How has globalization influenced the museum, its collections, its exhibitions, its research and its administration? How do we exhibit globalization?”

The editors would like to see proposals both for research papers (~ 6,000 words), for case studies (max. 3,000 words) and for exhibition reviews/discussions (max. 1,500 words). They have a pretty tight timeline, and want abstracts already by 6 January. Send directly to the editors at and/or

Wish I had time to write a piece on the reciprocity of globalisation and genomic sequencing technologies!



Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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