I’m pleased to announce the online publication of a co-authored article by Erich Weidenhammer and myself, “Museums and Scientific Material Culture at the University of Toronto“. This article will appear in the journal Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science.
This article is on a subject near and dear to my heart: the various attempts to create a curated collection of historic scientific instruments at the University of Toronto, including the current efforts to do this spearheaded by the University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection.
Here’s the paper’s abstract:
“Since its foundation in the mid-nineteenth century, the University of Toronto has accumulated a substantial number of historically-significant scientific objects. As Canada’s largest research university, much of this material is of national significance. Despite numerous attempts since the late 1970s to establish a universal policy for the preservation and safeguarding of scientific apparatus, the survival of Toronto’s scientific material heritage has depended partly on the initiatives of dedicated individuals, partly on luck.
The following examination seeks a comprehensive history of the material culture of science at the University, focussing on scientific instrumentation and natural history collections. It examines the circumstances under which some material survives and traces efforts to develop a curated collection, concluding with some recent progress in acquiring storage and developing an online catalogue. It argues that early university science museums formed an important venue through which the University fulfilled its public function of studying the frontier and assisting the expansion of the colonies. Likewise, a curated collection of historical scientific material may provide a means for the University and the public to understand the place of a research university within its community and culture.”