Medical museums are usually full with old and new medical science instruments. But they tend to be kept in storage because it is difficult to display them in a meaningful way. It’s much easier to put moulages, pickled organs and surgical instruments on show. Medical science instruments usually need truckloads of description and contextualisaton to make sense in museum displays. (Probably because they don’t ‘talk’, some people would say 🙂
Neither do many museum curators give much thought to the historicity of their display techniques. How have display practices changed over time and how do these practices reflect museum culture, politics and technologies?
Such question wil hopefully be discussed at the 29th symposium of the Scientific Instrument Commission, which will be held in Firenze, 4-9 October 2010 on the theme ‘Instruments on display’, i.e., how instruments have been presented in scientific collections, museums and permanent and temporary exhibitions throughout modern history up to the present:
Did didactic, scientific, celebrative, propagandistic and rhetorical considerations significantly influence the manner of displaying instruments? How were instruments presented in a Wunderkammer of the Renaissance, in a 18th-century cabinet or in a 19th-century exhibition? How and why are they shown in contemporary science museums?
This year’s symposium is sponsored and organized by Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (Museo Galileo) and Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica. The meeting is open to “anyone interested in the history, preservation, documentation of use of scientific instruments”, whether academic scholars, curators, collectors or students.