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Biomedicine in museums

What images tell of scientific work — and display practices?

… and I also wish I could be in Oxford on Wednesday at 5pm to attend the Museum of History of Science’s seminar and listen to David Gooding from the Science Studies Centre @ University of Bath when he talks about “Visual Theories: Materials, Models and Methods”. Here’s his abstract which brings up some interesting problems of relevance for the “Biomedicine on Display” project:

Alongside the study of texts, instruments and other artefacts, images have much to tell us about scientific work. Scientists in different domains use images and other non-linguistic objects in very similar ways. Common features of the manipulation of these objects indicate that general strategies for interpretation, simplification, modelling, elaboration and argumentation are at work. Some of these imaging methods are shared with the visual arts. Whereas social and cultural studies of science emphasise the diversity of local contexts of practice, the existence of common strategies shows that this diversity masks an important repertoire of cognitive strategies. I will show that scientists use this repertoire to adapt their representations to meet the demands that arise in different contexts of practice and will consider the implications of this finding for our understanding of scientists as agents in knowledge-producing systems.

My point is that what David Gooding says about cognitive research strategies could perhaps be applied to the domain of image-use in exhibitions and the public engagement with science. For example (to paraphrase Gooding), shall museums primarily been seen as more or less bewildering arrays of localised contexts of practice, or do curators rather use a repertoire of display strategies to adapt their exhibitions to meet the demands that arise in different museum contexts?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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