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Biomedicine in museums

The laboratory as an exhibition venue

My friend Michael (who is a regular reader of the German HSozuKult-list) has drawn my attention to the meeting ‘Wissenschaft im Museum: Ausstellung im Labor’, to be held in Tübingen, Germany, 8-9 April 2010.

In contrast to the usual discourse about displays of science in museums, this English-German bilingual ‘Tagung’ will concentrate on the relationship between scientific practices and presentation practices in the laboratory:

Our assumption is, that this two-way relation is not only part of scientific representation, but also shows epistemological processes. Exhibitions and showrooms in scientific work spaces are not only displays of knowledge, but play a crucial role in its production. Thus, the leading question is: How much exhibition is there in science?

Interesting point! In the longer background text for the meeting, the organisers —Margarete Vöhringer at Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin ( and Anke Te Heesen, Ludwig-Uhland-Institut für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft in Tübingen ( — give two historical examples from the turn of the last century (Bechterev and Haeckel). But I wonder to what extent such exhibitions and displays really play a role in contemporary laboratory practice, e.g., in biomedical and biotech lab settings?

I guess the answer depends on how far the domain of the ‘laboratory’ is stretched. If, as Margarete and Anke suggest, the scientific poster session has evolved from such earlier installations in the lab, you may say that congress posters are extensions of the lab. And maybe lab visualisations online, like the application of lab protocols in JoVE, could be understood as displays in such an extended laboratory rather than communications of moving images from the lab?

Anyway, this sounds like an interesting meeting, which could bring some historical perspective on the relation between museum displays and scientific practices today, and vice versa. Send your paper proposals to Margarete Vöhringer ( or Anke Te Heesen ( before 15 June. You can read more here.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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