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Biomedicine in museums

Why do museums want to bring art and science together?

Museums are a significant part of the global science learning and experience economy. There are many hundreds, maybe thousands, of science, technology and medical museums and science centers around the world. The Association of Science-Technology Centers presently lists 447 institutions, but they don’t list small, regional and local museums.

This STM-sector of the museum industry (let’s forget about science centers) spans everything from small, regional, amateur-driven collections and displays run by retired scientists, engineers and medical doctors to large professional-driven institutions supported by state grants and having hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of visitors each year—like the Science Museum in London, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, just to mention three big STM-museums on three different continents, who are among the significant actors in the global cultural and experience economy.

Whether they work on a small scale or as large operations, many STM-museums nowadays are involved in bringing art and science (art and technology, art and medicine) together. This is true both for the very small, queer and curiousities-filled ones, like my personal favourite, the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City. It’s true for the middle-sized ones, like the Wellcome Collection in London which is deliberately exploring the art-life science connection. And it’s true for the Big Ones, like Cité des sciences et de l’industrie in Paris which has even published a guide to their own artworks.

Why then has art and aesthetics entered the STM-museum sector? In a number of posts over the next couple of days I will discuss five possible reasons why museums are increasingly bringing art and science together.

These posts are parts of a paper I gave at the session “Rethinking Representational Practices in Contemporary Art and Modern Life Sciences” organised by Ingeborg Reichle for the Society for Literature, Science and Art (SLSA) meeting in Berlin a couple of weeks ago under the title “Five (good and bad) reasons why a medical museum director wants to bring art and science together”.

The other speakers in the session were Suzanne Anker (New York) and Rob Zwijnenberg (Leiden). Above are Rob, Susanne and Ingeborg before we started the session.
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Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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