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  • Vortrag

Montagskolloquium Sommersemester 2024

Scientific Instrument Collections

Rebekah Higgitt (National Museums Scotland):

“Using Digital Tools to Explore and Visualise the Colonial Histories of Scientific Instrument Collections”

  • , bis

Zoom conference link: https://zoom.us/j/91255064760?pwd=TlRpeXZPaWVMbGx3Q2tTSi9SU2dZUT09

Rebekah Higgitt (National Museums Scotland):

“Using Digital Tools to Explore and Visualise the Colonial Histories of Scientific Instrument Collections”

Abstract: This paper will consider how digital tools and visualisations may offer ways of revealing and communicating the imperial and colonial histories implicit within datasets relating to scientific instrument collections. While the extent to which instruments were involved in the processes of colonisation is well known to historians, and the individual histories of a few have been mapped by curators to illustrate key stories, there remains a disconnect between this work and the often-minimal information contained in collection databases. By providing ways of working at scale across extant datasets, and of creating and linking to new ones, it becomes possible to quantify and visualise data points to reveal new or potential connections. While it is essential to be aware of past assumptions and absences within these datasets, they can also include telling details, including locations (of manufacture, acquisition, repair or use); materials (such as those produced in and extracted from colonised places); or associations (individual or institutional). Examples considered, drawing on proof-of-concept work undertaken within the Tools of Knowledge project, will include the use of digital mapping and Name Entity Recognition on collections data; digital analysis of text corpora to reveal associations between instrument types and people, activities, events and places; and the visualisation of the itineraries of chronometers in the long 19th century revealed through crowdsourced transcription of the Admiralty Chronometer Ledgers held at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Bio: Rebekah Higgitt is a historian of science and Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland. She was an Co- and Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project 'Tools of Knowledge: Modelling the Creative Communities of the Scientific Instrument Trade, 1550-1914' and her most recent book is Metropolitan Science: London Sites and Cultures of Knowledge and Practice, c. 1600-1800 (forthcoming 2024).

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