Objects can be a real pearl on the shores of history of science. Telescopes and steam engines still figure prominently in our field, and rightfully so. From the edited volume Making Instruments Count (1993) to Frans van Lunteren’s blog ‘Mediating Machines’ here at Shells & Pebbles, many scholars research the role of scientific instruments in the history of discoveries, experiments, applications, and education. But besides microscopes and machines I would argue that some artisan objects and ordinary materials deserve similar attention. Piss, poop and pots might appear unrelated to history of science at first sight, but on closer inspection they open up new perspectives in academic research.
Can or should historians be activists? Floor Haalboom and Hans Schouwenburg share their ideas on this dilemma in e-mails which they make available on Shells & Pebbles.
October 1, 2015