Collectors, Displays and Replicas in Context: What We Can Learn from Provenance Research in Science Museums
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In this chapter, I outline three prominent themes that have emerged in my provenance research in the collections of the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM). First, I explore the role collectors have had on the kinds of histories we collect, preserve, research and display, and the means through which their activities build historical value for a body of preserved materials. Through the history of collectors (many are scientists), we depart from traditional narratives and learn more about their own time, culture, preoccupations and conceptions of science. Second, I look at the historical function of display in the history of museum objects, and their surprisingly long history of being on display, in many cases much longer than their technical use. These display histories tell us much about the nature of scientific communication, culture and identity. Third, I look at the history of scientific replicas and recreations, and their function in making and shaping the history and culture of science. I treat replicas as artifacts from their time of construction, and not just as representations of a previous historical moment.