The Connecting with Collections Symposium took place last Friday (27th September), and it was a great success.
We were lucky to have Sam Alberti, Director of Museums and Archives at the Royal College of Surgeons and Curator of their fabulous Hunterian Museum, as our keynote speaker. The title of his presentation was Objects of Knowledge: Using Material Culture in Twentieth-Century Museums.
Sam kindly allowed us to record his paper, so that you lovely people can listen to it right here. The abstract of the paper is below.
The way we use objects in collections of science, natural history and medicine has changed significantly over the past hundred years. In the early twentieth century, while natural science museums were are the peak of their prestige and influence as sites for the generation and reproduction of knowledge, other collections (especially of instruments) were deployed to commemorate scientific achievements. This heritage function expanded in the second half of the century as other sites challenged museums’ teaching and research roles.
Using national, university and medical school collections in the UK this paper presents episodes in the history of twentieth-century museums, from the well-documented interwar years to the historiographical terra incognita of the second half of the century. When and why do objects move from active use to reverential display? How did the relationship between museums and (their) universities change over the century? What role did material culture play in science, medicine and their histories in post-war Britain? Such questions help us to understand the use (and disuse) of museum objects in the construction, perpetuation, and professional identity of disciplines.