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Issue 18

Welcome to a new year of Science Museum Group Journal reading! We start the year with a double-sized special issue showcasing the Congruence Engine project (part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Towards a National Collection suite of discovery projects) which explores how linking the nation’s collections using digital tools can enable the development of new kinds of historical and curatorial practice in industrial history. Like Congruence Engine itself the issue is experimental, exploring new forms of writing, collaborative authorship and article formats. Guest-edited by Tim Boon the project lead, with Simon Popple and Nina Webb-Bourne, the 18 papers include scene-setting pieces from academic leads in the history of textiles (Will Ashworth) communications (Jon Agar) energy (Graeme Gooday) and digital humanities (Jane Winters) ably supported by members of the working groups for each project thread. There are also conversation pieces where project collaborators come together to discuss key words for the project (Arran Rees, Anna-Maria Sichani, Stefania Zardini Lacedelli) and perspectives on community and forms of knowledge (Simon Popple, Stefania Zardini Lacedelli, Arran Rees, Stuart Prior, Maggie Smith). Some authors contribute their individual skill and perspective (for example Tim Smith’s beautiful photographic essay on the contemporary textiles industry, Paul Craddock’s film of an operating piece of historic textiles machinery, Daniel Wilson’s discussion of working with data at scale, John Stack and Jamie Unwin’s discussion of the potential role of machine learning in the project, or Asa Calow’s survey of its future potential). Others explore what it means to come together within the project, for example how Historic England preservation work finds parallels with the curatorial business of acquiring big industrial objects (Wayne Cocroft and Ben Russell) or what can be learned when curators of collections distributed across the UK come together (Kylea Little, Felicity McWilliams and Ellie Swinbank). The issue is headed by a discussion of the origins and potential of the project by Tim Boon, and an editorial (by Helen Graham and Arran Rees) which argues that it is the action research approach that creates the heart and soul of the Congruence Engine. The issue is completed with a review of the Living with Machines exhibition at Leeds City Museum (Lauren Ryall-Waite) a short project manifesto (Alex Butterworth) and an obituary of Cameron Tailford, the late young project member whose contribution is very much missed. 

If you’d like to know more about Congruence Engine, you can head over to the project blog, which features reflections on many aspects of the project.

Congruence Engine is supported by AHRC grant AH/W003244/1.

Research grant successes

The Research and Public History department at the Science Museum Group has recently been successful in winning three major grants that will help us rethink responses to big cultural issues, develop our curatorial practices, and make connections with overseas researchers. Long Histories of Collaboration (MaILHoC) is a 600,000 EUR bid to the ‘heritage, society, and ethics’ call of the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage (JPI CH) administered by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) in France. Over the next two years, MaILHoC will see postdoctoral researchers employed at the Science Museum and our partners Aix-Marseille Université in France and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain examining the ethics of industrial patronage on museums of science, technology, and medicine. The project will begin in May 2022, with recruitment beginning shortly. 'Science through the keyhole: revealing scientific practices through workspaces' was a successful AHRC Network grant proposal. It will investigate three core questions: What is a scientific workspace? How does space constitute scientific practice (and vice versa)? And how can historical workspaces of scientific practice be recreated, evoked, and interpreted for museum visitors? Finally, a British Council Connections Through Culture UK-South East Asia Grant has been awarded to colleagues at The National Museum of Indonesia (which holds the Indonesian medical collections). This grant will pay for contributions to three online workshops as well as at least one visit from an Indonesian delegation.

Invitation to contribute to the Journal

We invite scholars and museum professionals to submit original research, discussion or review papers relating to subjects that chime with the interests of the Science Museum Group and the wider science museum community for forthcoming issues of the Journal. Issue 19 (Spring 2023) is now in production. Among a range of fascinating research articles we are especially delighted to feature a paper by Prasannan Parthasarathi the first Journal keynote speaker at November’s Science Museum Group Research Conference. Speaking to the conference theme of the history of textiles and material culture, Professor Parthasarathi’s paper is on ‘The Indian Challenge and the Rise of Manchester’. You can find a video of the full presentation here. Issue 20 (Autumn 2023) has a deadline of 1 April 2023. Submission guidelines can be viewed here. If you have general questions about article submission or if you would like to contribute an article, discussion or review piece please don’t hesitate to contact the editorial team at [email protected]


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The Dana Research Centre and Library

The Dana Research Centre is located in the Wellcome Wolfson Building at the rear of the Science Museum, in South Kensington, London. Opened in 2016, the Dana Research Centre aims to promote the Science Museum as an important centre for scholarly research and it is home to the Museum’s Research & Public History Department, and to the Museum’s students and funded research projects. The Centre also provides a library with a selection of books and journals, a reading room and public access to the Science Museum’s electronic resources. Here the public can access and order items from the Museum’s extensive and rich library and archive collections stored at Wroughton (the Group’s large storage facility near Swindon). Do come and visit us to pick up a library card and browse the collection. More details, including the address can be found here. General questions about Library aspects may be directed to [email protected], and more general research programme enquiries to [email protected]

Collaborative Doctoral Awards

Six projects within the Science Museums and Archives Consortium (SMAC) start this year, including projects on the design mediation and consumption of Kenwood’s kitchen appliances, collecting the boundaries of art in the Science Museum, and, at the National Railway Museum, Between Worlds: Kenneth Cantlie and locomotive engineering in Africa, the Americas and Asia. 18 applications to the 2020 CDP round are now being assessed.

The Museum recently received AHRC Follow-on Funding for the project, Communicating Time and Culture. This builds on the findings of the original project Time, Culture and Identity, a collaboration between the Science Museum and the Palace Museum, China. It will fund a series of cultural events associated with the upcoming exhibition Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City and will allow us to engage different audience segments with the displays.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you wish to develop a proposal for future deadlines. Further details about the doctoral awards is given on the Science Museum’s Research and Public History webpages here.

Research Seminars

The Science Museum’s Research & Public History department continues to support a range of workshops, conference and seminars. Full details of all future seminars will be published here soon.


Keep up to date with all the latest research news, events and SMG Journal articles by following us on twitter: @SMGresearch