The “reading marathon” International perspectives in the history of science museums and exhibitions, celebrated in Berlin on 2-3 May 2013 put together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and museum professionals in order to exchange ideas and bibliography and to build up a common ground for the discussion. Through a selection of relevant literature examples, the workshop covered a wide range of topics, including the making of the concept heritage in early 19th century, the creation of the ecomusées in the 20th century, or the role of the visual and material turns in writing of history of science.
The discussions in the workshop contributed to identifying new areas for the research; one of those is the role of scientific heritage for communities’ identity building. Whereas the analysis on the narratives in the art or historical museums have deserved wide attention in the last decades’ bibliography, a deeper analysis is to be done on the ways scientific communities, or political entities, find also in the scientific museum a place for the negotiation of the self. This question could be tackled from a comparative angle, particularly concerning national identities: what’s the role of the scientific museum for the self-definition of the nation, as opposed to the art or the historical museum?
In what concerns university museums, it was highlighted the role of the scientific museum as a place associated with both the production of knowledge and the diffusion of it. The visit to the scientific collections of Humboldt Universität provided two good examples; the Lautarchiv illustrated the challenge of preserving and studying a historical collection that has passed into the domain of heritage. The Medienarchäologischer Fundus in turn, showed a collection in the making, not yet defined by the constraints of heritage preservation.
José María Lanzarote Guiral