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Museums of Modern Science

(NS 112, 1999)
May 29-30, 1999
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm
Organizers: Professor Svante Lindqvist, Nobel Museum and Professor Tore Frängsmyr, Uppsala University.

Attending the symposium were 17 lecturers and four session chairpersons from leading museums of the history of science, science centers and universities. In addition to the lecturers, 43 Swedish researchers, museum curators and science journalists participated as observers. The symposium was divided into four sessions: The Issues: How to Explain Modern Science and How to Reach the Indifferent; The Level of Complexity: The Middle Way Between the Superficial and the Repellant; Virtual Museums: The Challenges of New Technology; and Controversial Science Issues: Neither Apologetic Glorification nor "the Science War."

The lectures covered ideas about the role of museums in the cultural life of the future, as well as historical retrospectives on science and museums. One important theme was how to present and explain modern science to a broad audience. How is the exhibition medium influenced by new multimedia technology? How can art be used in exhibitions about science? Also important was the discussion of how to reach different categories of visitors. How can visitors be involved and activated, for example through discussion-based exhibitions? One aspect dealt with by the symposium was the role of museums in awakening an interest in science, but also in providing a critical, investigative perspective and addressing controversial issues.

The symposium volume was published by Science History Publications in the United States during the summer of 2000.

May 29 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Beijersalen.
9.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m. Session 1 The Issues: How to Explain Modern Science and How to Reach the Indifferent.
Chair: Professor Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, President of the Science Council of Japan, former President of Tokyo University
  Sir Neil Cossons, Director, Science Museum, London:"Museums in the New Millennium"
  Prof. Dr. Wolf Peter Fehlhammer, Generaldirektor, Deutsches Museum, München:"Communication of Science in the Deutsches Museum: In Search of the Right Formula"
  Mme Dominique Ferriot, Director, Musée des arts et métiers, Paris: "The Musée des Arts et Méiers: Renovation Issues"
  Dr. Alan J. Friedman, Director, New York Hall of Science, New York: "Museums, Communities, and Contemporary Science"
  Ali Mazrui - Subnational Ethnicity, Subnational Religion and Vice Versa: The Contradictions of Africa's Primordial Experience
2.00 p.m.-5.00 p.m.
Session 2
The Level of Complexity: The Middle Way Between the Superficial and the Repellent.
Chair: Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York
  Dr. James A. Bennett, Director, Museum of the History of Science, Oxford: "Beyond Understanding: Curatorship and Access in Science Museums"
  Dr. Simon Schaffer, Reader in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge: "Object Lessons: Some Entanglements of Science Museums"
  Dr. Otto Sibum, Research Director, Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin: "The Physical Laboratory in Modern Education: Late 19th and 20th Century Perspectives"
  Dr. Ken Arnold, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London: "Fact and Fancy: Art in the Presentation of Science"
May 30 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Beijersalen
10.00 a.m.-12.30 p.m.
Session 3
Virtual Museums: The Challenges of New Technology.
Chair: Professor Thomas P. Hughes, Visiting Professor Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor emeritus University of Pennsylvania
  Professor Paolo Galluzzi, Director, Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Firenze: "New Technologies and the Objects of Science: Reflections on the Use of Multimedia"
  Dr. Saroj Ghose, past President National Council of Science Museums of India, past President ICOM, Calcutta: "From Hands-On to Minds-On: A Step Forward For Social Transformation Through Science Museums"
  Professor Jorge Wagensberg, Director, Museu de la Ciènca de la Fundacio "la Caixa", Barcelona: "New Trends in Scientific Museology (Or How to Change the Visitor's Life)"
  Dr. Doron Swade, Head of Collections, Science Museum, London: "Virtual Objects: Threat or Salvation?"
1.30 p.m.-4.00 p.m. Session 4 Controversial Science Issues: Neither Apologetic Glorification nor "the Science War". Chair: Ralph Grünewald, Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC.
  Dr. Bernard S. Finn, Curator, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: "Controversy and Context: How did we get here?"
  Dr. Xerxes Mazda, Curator, Science Museum, London: "Changing the Museum-Visitor Relationship Through Discussion-Based Exhibits"
  Professor Robert Friedel, Department of History, University of Maryland: "A-OK to Y2K: Technological Confidence and History at the End of the Twentieth Century"
  Dr. Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester: "Communication and Communities: Changing Paradigms"
4.30 p.m.-5.15 p.m. Session 5: Concluding session.

Professor John L. Heilbron, Senior Research Fellow Worcester College, Oxford, former Vice Chancellor University of California Berkeley, "Concluding remarks"


Olov Amelin Peter Larsson
Ken Arnold Ulf Larsson
Anders Bárány Birgitta Lemmel
Jenny Beckman Per Lindahl
James A. Bennett Julia Lindkvist
Maria Björkroth Svante Lindqvist
Ulrika Björkstén Jan Lindsten
Johan Celsing Bengt Lundberg
Neil Cossons Xerxes Mazda
Annagreta Dyring Hans Mehlin
Eric Dyring Bengt Nagel
Anders Ekström Jan S. Nilsson
Inga Elmquist Olle Nordberg
Lena Embertsén Nils Ringertz
Wolf Peter Fehlhammer Joanna Rose
Dominique Ferriot Josefin Rönnbäck
Bernard S. Finn Simon Schaffer
Robert Friedel Otto Sibum
Alan J. Friedman Michael Sohlman
Tore Frängsmyr Monika Starendal
Paolo Galluzzi Doron Swade
Saroj Ghose Gunnar Törnqvist
Karl Grandin Jorge Wagensberg
Ralph Grunewald Gudrun Vahlquist
Marika Hedin Neale Wheeler Watson
John L. Heilbron Sven Widmalm
Eilean Hooper-Greenhill Katarina Villner
Thomas P. Hughes Thomas Wright
Thomas Kaiserfeld Urban Wråkberg
Ulla Keding Olofsson Hiroyuki Yoshikawa
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett  


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