Science Museum Group Journal
The Science Museum Group Journal presents the global research community with peer-reviewed papers relevant to the wide-ranging work of the Science Museum Group. The Journal freely shares the research of five national UK museums and warmly invites contributions that resonate with their collections and practice.
13 CURRENT ISSUE Spring 2020 - Issue 13
Issue 13 appears in the midst of an epidemic, when it seems important to remind ourselves not only that normal functions of research and publication are continuing but that digital channels such as this Journal have the power to reach scholars and readers across the world who are cut off from the social sites of libraries, museums and universities. This issue reminds us of the richness of our cultural spaces and the research relating to them. Three articles here are concerned with objects within exhibitions: a conversation among curators and researchers explores the politics behind the redisplay of the ‘Blue Whale’ at the Natural History Museum, while Stewart Emmens describes the development process behind the ‘Wounded’ exhibition at the Science Museum. Our writing-prize winner Daniel Belteki takes a more biographical route, tracing the journey of an astronomical model from creation through various displays to its deaccession. Other articles shine a light directly on objects and collections: reflecting on her research on the Science Museum’s collection of vision aids, Gemma Almond discusses the value of large, anonymous and often uncatalogued collections to researchers; meanwhile, Jason Bate shows how the Royal Society of Medicine became active in lantern projection, circulation and popularisation as a scientific teaching practice in First World War Britain. Within this open issue we present a collection of papers celebrating the work of recently retired senior curator Robert Bud. With an introductory essay on methods of curating by Tim Boon, distinguished authors take aspects of Roberts work and interests and explore their wider influence: Helmuth Trischler discusses the acceptance of the role of material culture in historical studies, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent looks at the use of the term ‘applied science’ in historical studies in France, Jeff Sturchio explores the use of chemistry in Kenneth Mees’s work at Eastman Kodak, while Alison Boyle looks at the ways that Robert influenced contemporary collecting at the Science Museum. Three lierature reviews and an exhibition review of St Fagans National Museum of History in Wales complete this issue. We publish it with particular thanks to authors, reviewers and staff who have worked so hard to meet deadlines in difficult circumstances.
At the boundary between science and industrial practices: applied science, arts and technique in France
In response to Robert Bud’s historical inquiry of applied science, this paper discusses whether it has been adopted in France. I argue that although the term was occasionally used in France it has never been successful because of the prestige of arts in the encyclopaedic movement.
Wounded – an exhibition out of time
Calling on the Science Museum’s First World War exhibition Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Care, this article outlines the challenges of curating a coherent display within such a vast context. It also explores how the narrative and interpretive approaches taken were influenced by an earlier, unrealised proposal – one whose bold concept was reflected in the rewarding and sometimes unexpected qualities that emerged in the final exhibition.
Curating Ocean Ecology at the Natural History Museum: Miranda Lowe and Richard Sabin in conversation with Pandora Syperek and Sarah Wade
Curators Miranda Lowe and Richard Sabin discuss a major redisplay at the Natural History Museum, London, featuring ‘Hope’ the blue whale skeleton, in relation to extinction narratives, ideals of authenticity, anthropomorphism and the crossover of art and science.
‘A small Scar will be much discerned’: treating facial wounds in early modern Britain
This article examines the surgical treatment and prevention of facial wounds and scars in early modern Britain through a close study of the unpublished casebook of St Bartholomew’s Hospital surgeon Joseph Binns.
‘Valentine from A Telegraph Clerk ♂ to a Telegraph Clerk ♀’ by James Clerk Maxwell: the material culture and standards of early electrical telegraphy
This paper explores the material culture, electrical standards, and romance of early cable telegraphy as described in renowned physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s slightly tongue-in-cheek 1860 poem 'Valentine from A Telegraph Clerk ♂ to a Telegraph Clerk ♀'.
New mobile experiences of vision and modern subjectivities in Late Victorian Britain
The article explores the new way of seeing enabled by cycling in relation to the experience and temporality of late nineteenth century modernity, questioning how this influenced photographers’ approach to the representation of what was, effectively, a modern, moving, gaze.
An overlooked eighteenth-century scrofula pamphlet: changing forms and changing readers, 1760–1824
This article explores the medical context, editorial history and varied reader reception of an eighteenth-century pamphlet on scrofula written by John Morley, a wealthy Essex landowner.
A history of amulets in ten objects
This article presents a historical survey of ten amulets using objects from the Science Museum collections. What can we learn about the place of amulets in the larger narrative of European healing from the early modern era to the present day?
From the White Man’s Grave to the White Man’s Home? Experiencing ‘Tropical Africa’ at the 1924–25 British Empire Exhibition
This article analyses the exhibition and reception of Tropical Africa at the 1924–25 British Empire Exhibition, drawing attention to affect, the senses, and spatiality. It emphasises the need to look beyond curatorial intent and consider the multiplicity of potential experiences within World’s Fairs.