Where to Put It All? Some Thoughts about Collections, Museums, and History

Conferences & Symposia
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

To mark the change of name that has transformed the Chemical Heritage Foundation into the Science History Institute and to kick off this year’s Cain Conference, Shaping Scientific Instrument Collections, this lecture will consider how collections of scientific objects came to define museums and how museums came to define collections of scientific objects.

Science museums, like science itself, have their own history. Indeed, changes in the practice of science have shaped what has gone on inside science museums, and in response museums have redefined their public role. The talk concludes with a look at science museums present and future and some speculations about the challenges they face and the opportunities they might pursue.


6:00 p.m. Talk
7:00 p.m. Reception

This event is free, but registration is required.

About the speaker

Steven Conn is the W. E. Smith Professor of History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He has written extensively about museums, including two books, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876–1926 and Do Museums Still Need Objects? He has just completed a new book project on the history of American business schools, which is really more interesting than it sounds. He became a historian in some measure because he wasn’t very good at science.


About the Cain Conference

The Cain Conference is an international conference sponsored by the Gordon Cain Foundation. This year’s theme, Shaping Scientific Instrument Collections, will be addressed through a workshop questioning the study of scientific instruments in museums as assemblages. A dozen curators and other scholars will discuss the uses and values afforded to the material culture of science in Europe and North America since the 19th century. This intensive workshop will involve debates based on precirculated papers and studies of the Science History Institute’s rich collections. If you are interested in attending, please contact Carin Berkowitz at cberkowitz@sciencehistory.org.