Science through the keyhole: revealing scientific practices through workspaces

Lead Research Organisation: Science Museum Group
Department Name: Science Museum Research


'Science through the keyhole: revealing scientific practices through workspaces' seeks to improve our collective understanding of scientific practice by paying close attention to the diverse spaces in which it occurred and the wide range of labours on which it depended. The network will bring together academics and museum professionals to investigate a series of questions to do with the role of space in facilitating and conditioning science through its workspaces and how those workspaces can most effectively be presented to public audiences in the context of a museum gallery. Central to the network is the question of how a spatial understanding of scientific practice can more fully reveal the nature of scientific truth, its claims to authority, and the role of scientific knowledge in public life.

Through a series of interdisciplinary workshops, the network will bring museum professionals, academics (including historians of science, historical geographers and scientists), and experts in historical recreation (including digital) into dialogue in order to explore the relationship between science and its workspaces, with a view to encouraging new research collaborations and laying the foundation for the development of a new public gallery at the Science Museum, 'Spaces of Science'. Each workshop will be guided by a one of three fundamental research questions (see "Objectives") and each will include a visit to a reconstructed scientific workspace (see "Case for Support").

The temporal focus of the network falls on the period since 1876, when the world's first international exposition of scientific instruments was held at the South Kensington Museum, the precursor to the Science Museum. The exposition-combining new and historical instruments-marked an important moment in popular and professional understandings of scientific workspaces and therefore serves as a central point of comparison when considering how scientific workspaces and practices have changed and evolved since then in response to the competing demands of government policy, and academic and commercial scientific research. Visited by more than a quarter of a million people, the 1876 exhibition was also a significant juncture in the popular history of science and, in laying the foundation for a new public-facing museum gallery, the network will place public understandings of science at the core of its activities.


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