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Biomedicine in museums

Scientific objects in transition – new exhibition in Berlin

Two years ago, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPI-WG) took the initative to an international research network, ‘History of scientific objects’. So far, the network’s primary activity has been a European wandering seminar taking place in May and June 2006, which we were happy to host here at Medical Museion for a week (see report here), before they continued to other sites around Europe.

One of the results of the touring seminar is the exhibition ‘Objects in Transition’ that opens at MPI-WG in Dahlem on Thursday 16 August and closes three weeks later, on Sunday 2 September. (The German name of the exhibition is ‘Objekte in Bewegung’ — does “Bewegung’ really mean the same thing as ‘transition’?)

The three exhibition curators — Gianenrico Bernasconi, Anna Märker and Susanne Pickert — were all part of the touring seminar group. It will be exciting to see how they have succeeded to integrate a number of the conceptual viewpoints that were discussed at the seminar (scientific objects, biographies of objects, transitions between changing contexts, etc.) with the exhibition medium. Here are two quotes from the invitation folder:

… what constitutes the scientific character of an exhibit? Where do scientific objects some from, and where do they go when scientists have lost interest in them? ‘Objects in transition’ illuminates the biographies of various objects: from everyday life, into the spotllight of scientific curiosity, from preparation to icon, from specimen to souvenir, from model to toy.


Generally, objects remain in a scientific context for a limited amount of time. When they are no longer the centre of scientific attention they may re-enter the realm of everyday things. Frequently, objects can appear in museums, as cultural icons, or in commercial contexts, and thus potentially lose their scientific character.

There will be a catalogue (forthcoming). So far they don’t have an exhibition website, but it may come later.

I’m in Berlin in mid-August and will back with a full report a.s.a.p.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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