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Challenging Tropes: Genius, Heroic Invention, and the Longitude Problem in the Museum

Higgitt, Rebekah F. (2017) Challenging Tropes: Genius, Heroic Invention, and the Longitude Problem in the Museum. Isis, 108 (2). pp. 371-380. ISSN 0021-1753. E-ISSN 1545-6994. (doi:10.1086/692691) (KAR id:62309)

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This essay explores how concerns relevant to academic historians of science do and do not translate to the museum setting. It takes as a case study a 2014 exhibition on the story of longitude, with which the author was involved. This theme presented opportunities and challenges for sharing nuanced accounts of science, technology, and innovation. Audience expectation, available objects, the requirements of display, and economic constraints were all factors that could impede effective communication of the preferred version of the story, developed in part through an associated research project. Careful choices regarding objects and design, together with the use of theatrical and multimedia spaces and digital displays, helped to shift visitor interest from the well-known version of the story and toward a longer and more peopled account. However, the persistence of heroic and genius narratives meant that this could not always be achieved and that effective engagement must include direct conversation.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1086/692691
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Rebekah Higgitt
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2017 15:42 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:46 UTC
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Higgitt, Rebekah F.:
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