Part of my role here in the Centre for History of Science involves advertising all the events, exhibitions and conferences that we organise. Part of the process involves working out who might like to attend and how best to make sure the details get to them – all very interesting and important to get right, but not usually something which inspires me to blog. Today, however, I’ve been doing some promotional work for a conference which we’re hosting next month, and it has really got me thinking.
The conference in question is entitled “Science Voices: scientists speak about science and themselves”, and I hope you’ve heard about it already – if not please see the conference webpage for all the details! It’s taking place on 12 and 13 May, and I’m really looking forward to it.
I am fascinated by history, though I must admit I usually prefer to learn about things in the more distant past. The idea of recording history-in-the-making isn’t something I’d given a great deal of thought to – although I had at least been vaguely aware of oral history projects undertaken by the British Library and the Wellcome Collection, and I know that one of my colleagues here at the Royal Society has been recording interviews with scientists as well.
Browsing through the conference programme it rapidly became apparent that there are all sorts of ways to approach oral history, and that capturing the thoughts and memories of all sorts of people can have a range of benefits for all concerned. One thing which I didn’t spot, but I hope at least one of the speakers will address, is any consideration of the technological issues around the long-term storage of the audio files produced. With my librarian’s hat on for a moment, how to store and maintain digital records of all types is one of the big issues at the moment, and I wonder if this will provide an opportunity for some discussion of approaches to the problem.
Back to the conference programme, one item in particular caught my eye – the evening lecture on May 12 focussing on the Museum Lives project. This collaboration between the Natural History Museum and Kingston University struck me as especially fascinating as it operates on so many levels, and will be of interest and use to so many different people, both now and in the future, and I can’t wait to hear more about it.