Art and Science / Cinema / Design / Events / Exhibition / New Media / Sound / Space / Technology / Uncategorized

Scripts, Performances, Monuments and Encounters: The Public Culture of 20th Century Science through its Media

In collaboration with  the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine, the Department of Film and Visual Culture is pleased to announce the seminar below:

Tim Boon (Head of Research & Public History, Science Museum Group London)

4 to 6 pm, Thursday 23 March, Taylor A36


In this presentation, I will outline the structure for a proposed synthetic account of the public culture of science in 20thc Britain, and exemplify how it might work by taking specific examples. Drawing together the implications of previous work on the moving image and museum mediations of science and technology, I propose to use the categories of scripts, performances, monuments and encounters as I iteratively explore the operation of the public culture of science, especially making comparisons between two of the most powerful and popular vectors of this public culture: TV and museum display.

The category ‘scripts’ alludes to the ways that accounts of scientific matters for public consumption are constructed in human relations. Both moving image media and museums use the ‘script’ terminology, in which documents are the grounds upon which representations are stabilised before being created. ‘Performances’, in the Erving Goffman sense of the performance of self, are both literally one of the modes of science communication – think of TV presentation – but also one of the contributors to the formulation of ‘scripts’. I am using the term ‘monuments’ to refer to the ‘cooked’ products of scripts and performances, that is individual displays and programmes that persist as representations of the contingency that produced them, often decades afterwards. ‘Encounters’ are the occasions on which the public encounter the ‘monuments’. These, as the literature attests, are not simple filling of deficits, but complex exchanges of values, knowledge and understanding. Together, I propose to use scripts, performances, monuments and encounters to structure an account that will embody a compact account of a substantial domain.



Tim Boon, Head of Research & Public History for the Science Museum Group, is a historian and curator of the public culture of science. His published research (the books Films of Fact (2008) and Material Culture and Electronic Sound (co-edited with Frode Weium, 2013) and more than 30 papers) is mainly concerned with the history of science in documentary films, television, museums and, latterly, music. He has contributed to the exhibitions Health Matters (1994), Making the Modern World (2000) and Oramics to Electronica (2011). More broadly, he is responsible for developing the Museum’s research and public history programme, and has oversight of the Science Museums & Archives AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership.



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