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Accepted Paper:

Responsibility under transformation at the Science Museum Group: what is owed to people, objects, and the institution?  
Rhys Madden (LSE)

Paper short abstract:

This paper asks what responsibility means for our national science collections during their current transformation. Drawing on 6 months of work at the Science Museum Group, interviews and digital sources, I explore the competing responsibilities felt towards publics, objects, and the institution.

Paper long abstract:

History of science collections have been relatively understudied within crossover literature between anthropology and museum studies. But they hold a particular place within the UK’s self-conception, relating to a specific sort of history about industrialisation and contemporary framings of the UK as a small but scientifically-leading country.This paper looks at responsibility in relation to the Science Museum Group, one of the largest museum collections in the UK with many objects of international significance. It will investigate how questions about responsibility are being raised within the context of some major changes taking place: 1) the consolidation of multiple museums around the country into a single Science Museum Group, 2) major overhauls of permanent galleries at the London Science Museum site, 3) the closure of the London Blythe House store and the building of a new nationally-accessible store site at the National Collections Centre (NCC) Wroughton—this is set to hold >80% of the Group’s collections and offer new levels of access to collections not on display, while the move involves the largest photography, cataloguing and digitisation process undertaken by the SMG to date.These moments provide an opportunity to explore the differing responsibilities felt at levels of the museum: to diverse publics, to the objects themselves, and to the SMG as an institution. My paper will reflect on six months working at the NCC, as well as interviews and digital sources, to ask what responsibility means for our national science collections today.

Panel Speak09b
Sensible museums: responsibilities of knowledge creation and narrative construction in museums II
  Session 1 Tuesday 30 March, 2021, -