Two New Books on Object-based History

I would like to call attention to two new books related to object-centered history based on major exhibitions at Harvard's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.

(1) Time and Time Again: How Science and Culture Shape the Past, Present, and Future, by Sara J. Schechner.  Published by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.

This is a lavishly-illustrated, 296-pp exhibition catalog for an exhibition by the same name in 2013 ( ).  

Book Review: Reynolds on Coleborne & Mackinnon, eds, Exhibiting Madness in Museums

Catharine Coleborne, Dolly MacKinnon, eds. Exhibiting Madness in Museums: Remembering Psychiatry Through Collection and Display. New York: Routledge, 2011. 218 pp. $140.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-415-88092-3; ISBN 978-0-203-80710-1.

Reviewed by Pat Reynolds (Independent historian)
Published on H-Disability (January, 2015)
Commissioned by Iain C. Hutchison

CFP: ARTEFACTS XIX “Environing Exhibits: Science, Technology, and Museums in the Anthropocene”

ARTEFACTS XIX “Environing Exhibits: Science, Technology, and Museums in the Anthropocene

ARTEFACTS is an international network of academic and museum-based scholars interested in promoting the use of objects in studies of the history of science and technology. The network was established in 1996 and since then has held annual conferences and published several books examining the various ways that this can be accomplished.

Re: Museums and the Muse: The Future of Collections in a Digital Age

For me, I think the first "wow" museum moment took place in Roscoe Village, Ohio. There is a small museum there, but they have a fantastic collection of Japanese work, including one of the porcelain models often used in medicine. While we were not allowed to touch it (a class tour of 6th graders handling objects was probably not a good idea), the guide let us see it closely. It was a remarkable moment--and now, at the Dittrick, we have three ivory manikins made in Germany in the 16th century. Though not used the same, they always make me think of that first "a-ha" moment.

Materials of Culture & Holocaust

We are preparing research on trending concepts for curating Holocaust materials. Specifically interested in artifacts: acquisition, curation, special exhibitions, athenticity and morality.

Collecting some data and would like to hear back from institutional members  working in museums and academic centers. Of special interest would be mission statements which are reflective of how the Holocaust is treated in your institution, what are the concepts of memory and concerns with authenticity.

Please respond by email, or here.

Gabriel Mayer

Re: Museums and the Muse: The Future of Collections in a Digital Age

Thank you! I love that photo, too. It wasn't staged, actually--I was lost in a moment of discovery and Jim (chief curator of the Dittrick) snapped the shot. You are right, though; this near engagement is what we often long for. And, of course, because objects are sensitive and delicate, we often can't give people this kind of access. It is a privileged space that, in some ways, seems at odds with what we most hope to do--bring people in closer. I think that is one future of the digital in museums, to give people a more three-dimensional and up-close look at objects.

Re: The Hidden Museums of the Royal College of Surgeons of England

Hi Mark - thanks for your comment and your fascinating post! I think the question of the future of physical collections in a world increasingly interested in the digital is one that the entire sector will need to grapple with. I certainly agree with your assertion that most curators' first love is the objects and that they provide a different experience than an online representation ever could!


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