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Biomedicine in museums

University heritage is back

The 11th Universeum network meeting, titled ‘University Heritage: Present and Future’, will be held in the university museum of Uppsala University (Museum Gustavianum), on 17-20 June.

The organisers say that none of the previous ten network meetings has received so much interest. Why this surge in the interest in the history of universities?

Is it the gradual implementation of New Public Management in universities that is eventually giving rise to a reaction? Are university people becoming so frustrated with managerial governance, new evaluation schemes and assessment procedures, and the nauseating hype of their central communication offices that we are looking back to those times when universites were still universities? Is the renewed interest in university heritage an expression of our longing for the good old days of university self-governance?

I would have loved to discuss these and other questions with colleagues from all over Europe (and my abstract for the meeting has been accepted). However, I must admit that the programme doesn’t look particularly enticing; the titles of many individual papers look quite interesting, but the organisers haven’t been restrictive enough when putting it together.

The result of accepting too many of the submitted papers is a terribly crowded programme — one damned presentation after the other for three long days, a mere 15 minutes allotted to each speaker and only a few minutes for questions afterward, short and inevitably rushed coffee breaks, etc. This doesn’t promise well for reflection or for networking.

More generally, academic conference culture is in dire need of meeting formats that invite to dialogue and creativity. Tech conferences are sometimes more inspiring (boot camps etc.), but academic conferences are often still held as in the 1980s when I first attended this kind of academic rituals.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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