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 four national UK museums and warmly invites contributions that resonate with their collections and practice.
09 CURRENT ISSUE Spring 2018 - Issue 09
As guest editor Frank Trentmann notes in his introduction to this special issue of the Journal, energy is more than a physical phenomenon of watts and carbon. In a world of increasing energy consumption, depleted resources and environmental damage, energy has become a crucial topic of cultural enquiry and political concern too. The articles in Issue 09 emerged from a series of symposia on the Material Culture of Energy held at the Science Museum in 2017—18 and they present perspectives from across disciplines and countries. Articles range from research on lighting design in South America, to the impact of refrigeration on traditional Indian food preparation, and from a comparison of electrification in Canada and Japan to a study of the cultural meanings of the coal fire in post-war Britain. Articles by museum professionals indicate both a shared interest and creative diversity in tackling the challenges of displaying energy. They include a collaboration with a well-known artist in Manchester, the collection of personal stories alongside objects in Edinburgh, presenting visitors with difficult choices in Munich, and employing theatre to engage disadvantaged children in Recklinghausen. A detailed study of a 3D model of electricity demand from the 1950s shows what museum objects can contribute to research. Other articles describe the experience of working within an international research project on social responses to nuclear power and provide a detailed bibliographical essay to support further research in this fascinating field.
‘As Snug as a Bug in a Rug’: post-war housing, homes and coal fires
This article examines the image of the open coal fire in redefining the home in post-war Britain. Rather than a timeless source of reverie and comfort, the post-war fire articulated values that were central to the nation in this period of reconstruction.
The language of Electricity: Jan Hicks in conversation with Bill Morrison
This in-conversation piece reveals the nature, rationale and context of the recent collaboration between film artist Bill Morrison and the Museum of Science and Industry for the exhibition 'Electricity: The spark of life'. The development of Morrison’s art installation, Electricity, had an impact on the thinking processes and practices of both artist and curator, producing new shared interpretations of electrical energy and power.
Making Material and Cultural Connections: the fluid meaning of ‘Living Electrically’ in Japan and Canada 1920–1960
This article explores how the process of aligning material and cultural ‘connections’ was crucial to defining different historical trajectories of domestic electrification in Canada and Japan. Detailing how connections were made and modified reveals the divergent and fluid meaning of living electrically across space and time.
Turning energy around: 'energie.wenden' - an interactive exhibition experience
This article presents the conceptual design of the recent travelling exhibition energie.wenden (literal translation: ‘turning energy around’). It uses a highly interactive and emotive approach, chosen to engage museum audiences with the pressing topic of energy transition.
‘Great ease and simplicity of action’ – Dr Nelson’s Inhaler and the origins of modern inhalation therapy
This paper reconstructs the history and reception of the Dr Nelson’s Inhaler as a means of understanding the growth of inhalation therapy in the mid-nineteenth century.
Prosthetic limbs on display: from maker to user
We reflect upon the way that prosthetic users have been represented in displays at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and National Museums Scotland. In particular, we assess how far user/patient voice balances clinical/technical narratives.
‘A Chamber of Noise Horrors’: Sound, Technology and the Museum
This article analyses the 1935 Science Museum exhibition on Noise Abatement in order to draw wider conclusions about technological sound and the museum and to make an argument in favour of hearing museum sound historically.
Flying Scotsman: modernity, nostalgia and Britain’s ‘cult of the past’
This article explores the rescue and restoration of the world famous steam locomotive Flying Scotsman in 1963 and explores wider questions about what it means to preserve cultural objects and how, if at all, their authenticity can be preserved.