TEMSIG History of Technology, Museums, and Public History Special Interest Group

Minutes of TEMSIG External Meeting

NCPH/OAH -- Milwaukee WI, April 20, 2012, 5pm


Allison Marsh called our gathering together today, not with a particular agenda, but with the intent to share announcements, information, and good cheer.

Suzanne Fischer visited the Milwaukee Public Museum and shared her experience with the group. The typewriter was invented in Milwaukee, and they have an excellent collection with pretty much any kind of typewriter. The museum also had a cabinet of curiosities ("Sense of Wonder") that she noted was "more ambitious than many cabinets of curiosities." Fischer also pointed out that MPM has, famously, one of the early Carl Akeley taxidermy life-diorama displays.

Sharon Babaian handed out a flyer for the triennial "Big Stuff Conference," Sept. 25-27, 2013, to be hosted by the Canadian Science and Technology Museum (CSTM). They are soliciting proposals. The CFP is not out yet. See http://www.bigstuffconference.com

Marsh reminded the group that nominations for SHOT's Dibner Award are due May 1.

Discussion point: Does TEMSIG want to sponsor sessions at future NCPH meetings? Bedi, Tatarewicz, Scripps, and Marsh had presented a "great" session earlier that day at NCPH on teaching with objects. Babaian noted that the next NCPH, which is in Ottawa, Canada, would be a good choice, because it would be possible to draw upon the collections of the CSTM. It was also noted that one of next year's program themes is "audience," which might fit well. The group agreed to try to come up with some ideas along these lines. The deadline for papers for 2013 NCPH is July 15, 2012.

Discussion point: Images of technology in use? Greg Koos, of the McLean County (Illinois) Museum of History, noted that his museum is in the process of redeveloping some exhibits and would be interested in finding early 20th century films that are free to use, not behind firewalls, to show examples of earlier technologies in use. Vining and others recommended looking into the Prelinger Archive, which is "awesome stuff" and is freely available online through the Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/prelinger

Babaian also pointed out the archive of the Canadian National Railway, which holds some 750,000 (!!) photos. These are mostly still images, but there may be some videos/films as well.

The group held some discussion of TEMSIG's meeting at SHOT 2012 in Copenhagen. A few people might be there, many others cannot go, and some are unsure.

Babaian and Marsh announced the summer institute "Reading Artifacts," which will be hosted this summer in Ottawa by CSTM. Marsh is the visiting faculty for the institute this year. It is open to students, postdocs, and faculty, in professions from scientists to poets as well as historians. The Institute will be held Aug. 13-17, 2012, and financial assistance is available for students. For additional information, contact Sharon Babaian, [email withheld].

Discussion Point: Babaian suggested that at NCPH 2013 we could reach out and teach K-12 teachers with artifacts, using the CSTM collections. The group agreed this was an excellent idea, as all too often, artifacts are, at best, just illustrations. Members discussed whether it would be possible to get both elementary and high school teachers, and wondered about what they would need and how to reach them. Koos noted some success with loan kits from his museum. Further discussion ensued.

The group then adjourned a little past 5:30pm, to continue our conversations upstairs at the NCPH Public Historian Reception.

ADDENDUM: In a post to the email list, Allison Marsh noted: "On Suzanne Fischer's advice, I headed to the Man at Work exhibit at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (along with Steve Lubar and Eric Nystrom). http://www.msoe.edu/about_msoe/manatwork/museum.shtml The place was fascinating, and I wish I had known about it in advance -- TEMSIG could have met up there. If you ever find yourself in Milwaukee, I encourage you to go. And if you have exhibits that require artwork (mostly oil paintings and sculpture) about people working (in all industries, but the strength is German heavy industry) check out the museum for potential loans." Margaret Vining added, "The Grohmann Man at Work Museum has fine exhibitions of artwork in well-marked sections for almost all forms of engineering. Remarkably, practically every section effortlessly includes depictions of women's work - from gathering hops for brewing to cleaning bricks in post-war reconstruction in Germany."

Respectfully submitted,

Eric Nystrom, Vice-Chair
UPDATED with addendum and corrections, April 26, 2012

[Originally posted to the TEMSIG list April 26, 2012, corrections and additions April 26, 2012.]