Dr. Ageliki Lefkaditou (Norsk Teknisk museum) - Putting history on display
Ageliki Lefkaditou is visiting the Science Studies Colloquium Series. Lefkaditou is senior curator at The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology (NTM) and a historian of science. She is writing on the history of physical anthropology, human population genetics, race and racism from late 19th century to present with a specific interest in Greece. Her interests include the development of museum theory, methods and practices, public understanding of science and science communication. Lefkaditou is the co-curator of the upcoming exhibit FOLK at NTM.
Putting history on display: prospects and challenges at the intersection of academic research, things, space, and People
The movement of museums towards telling difficult (hi)-stories, revisiting, or even deconstructing their institutional pasts, and exploring their political potency, has resulted in the production of several exhibits related to race and racism. These topics provide an opportunity to develop more nuanced interpretations of historical racial science, explore contemporary research, and empower their audiences to engage critically with science. One such case is the exhibition FOLK at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology.
FOLK explores research on human biological diversity related to Norway by juxtaposing the scientific practices of interwar racial science with contemporary genetics. The emphasis is on practices of measuring, visualizing, classifying, mapping, standardizing and (e)valuating human variation and their multiple entanglements with society, culture, politics, technology and economy. Building on and advancing the insights emerging from a 4-year research project, the exhibit is the result of multi-disciplinary collaboration between professionals from all sectors of the museum, the exhibition's designer and several other external actors. Thus, the narratives on how human biological similarities and differences have been studied and produced take shape at the intersection of academic research and museum work with texts, things, space and people.
In this talk, I will discuss the content and development process of FOLK by bringing together insights from museum studies, history, philosophy and social studies of science, as well as science communication and public understanding of science. The focus will be on how integrated research and science communication on difficult and controversial issues challenge collaborating researchers, communication practitioners, and even institutions, to reflect on, rethink, reimagine, and reshape their research and practices in the meeting with diverse audiences, materiality and space. My main hypothesis is that this (be)coming together in the assembling and experimental museum setting carries significant transformative potency for all implicated human and non-human actors. The seminar will analyze the museum as a site of conjectures where binary oppositions between science and the public are questioned and diverse societal groups and individuals are actively involved in developing research and further communication aligned with their interests and needs. I will conclude by considering the strengths, challenges and limitations of humanities and social sciences scholars, as well as scientists in communicating research.