Final Programme: Object Lessons and Nature Tables

Object Lessons and Nature Tables: Research Collaborations Between Historians of Science and University Museums

University of Reading, 23 September 2016, 9:30 to 17:30

Venue: Special Collections and Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, Redlands Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5EX, UK

(click here to see venue on Google Maps)

Accessibility Information:  The venue has a step-free entrance with an automatic door, fully accessible WCs on the ground floor and the first floor, and there is disabled visitor parking. The conference takes place on the first floor, with lunch and teas served on the ground floor: there is an elevator between these two floors. An induction loop is available, but please let us know by Monday 19 September if you wish to use this facility as it will need to be set up specifically. Microphones will not be used at the conference.


The morning sessions of the conference are devoted to ‘object animations’, where actual collections objects and their research potential will be explored by speakers who will also be demonstrating their methods and techniques.

We have an expert panel with Professor Simon Schaffer and Professor David Gaimster, who will be sharing collaborative research methodologies.

The afternoon sessions of 20 minute papers will further deepen our understanding of how to work across collecting institutions and the academy by exploring institutional initiatives, museums as catalysts for sustained interdisciplinarity, and epistemic techniques.

Tune in on the day via social media: hashtag #HSTMobjects 


Object Lessons and Nature Tables

9:30-9:45   Registration and refreshments: please remember to bring your registration fee in cash and to leave enough time for payment – official receipts will be given

9:45-10:00   Welcome, Introduction and Housekeeping, with convenors Martha Fleming and Rohan Deb Roy



10:00   Panel One: From Electricity to Electronics
(Chair: Martha Fleming, Reading)

Charlotte Connelly (Cambridge): Untangling Ohm’s Apparatus
Stefan Hoeltgen (Berlin): Open (the) Architectures: A hands-on approach to media and computer theory with operative archaeology

10:50-11:00   COMFORT BREAK

11:00   Panel Two: Waxworks
(Chair: Josh Nall, Cambridge)

Jenny Bulstrode (Cambridge): Wax on wax off: A Matter of Method
Victoria Asschenfeldt [and Henrik Essler] (Hamburg): You Can Only See What You Know?  Wax Moulages – Epistemic objects in research and education now and then

11:50   Panel Three: Around Creatures
(Chair: Oliver Douglas, MERL)

Alexander Bowmer (London/Reading): Where There is No Vet – Management of Animal Health in their Own Hands
Geoffrey Hancock (Glasgow): The Ellis Barnacle in the Hunterian Collection

12:40-13:30   LUNCH



Top Tips for Collaborative Research Practice between historians of science and museum and collection colleagues (Co-Chairs Martha Fleming and Rohan Deb Roy)

Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science, University of Cambridge
David Gaimster, Professor and Director of the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow



14:00   Panel Four: Bigger Picture Institutional Developments
(Chair: Nicky Reeves, Glasgow)

Marie Luisa Allemeyer (Goettingen): The Forum Wissen: Goettingen University’s project to (re-) activate its academic collections
Sébastien Soubiran and Delphine Issenman (Strasbourg): Experimenting with new paths for a social and cultural mediation of science at the Jardin des Sciences
Henry McGhie (Manchester): Working with history at Manchester Museum: past, present, future

15:10-15:30   TEA

15:30   Panel Five: Animals are Good to Think With
(Chair: Rohan Deb Roy, Reading)

Mark Carnall (Oxford): Putting the Museum back into Natural History Museums
Rosanna Evans [and Henry Schmidt, Liba Taub] (Cambridge): Is it the international year of the frog?  How a well-used teaching model can be a catalyst for new research

16:20   Panel Six: Epistemic Instruments
(Chair: Mike Finn, Leeds (TBC))

Emily Akkermans (Edinburgh): Retracing historical practices at sea: navigating between instruments and archival materials
Jenny Nex (Edinburgh): Instruments of Science and of Music –  The tradition of teaching acoustics at the University of Edinburgh and the collection of Professor John Donaldson



The convenors, Dr Martha Fleming and Dr Rohan Deb Roy, would like to thank the peer review committee for their assistance:  Dr Katy Barrett (Curator of Art, pre-1800, Royal Museums Greenwich), Dr Michael Finn (Director of the Museum of the History of Science, Technology & Medicine, University of Leeds), Dr Joshua Nall (Curator of Modern Sciences, Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge), and Dr Nicky Reeves (Curator of Scientific and Medical History Collections, Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow).

This conference is co-produced and supported by the Centre for Collections Based Research and the Department of History of the University of Reading, with generous funding from the British Society for the History of Science in the form of a Conference Grant.


Delegate Information: Dining in Reading

There is no official conference dinner, but we hope that delegates will take advantage of the conference to meet and exchange with each other socially as well as during the papers and presentations.

Near the conference venue (Special Collections/ Museum of English Rural Life)  there is a cluster of recommended restaurants where London Street meets the River Kennett.  This area is also on the 21 Bus Route that runs from the train station up to Whiteknights Campus, with the Hillingdon Prince Hotel situated in between, at the Vicarage Road stop !

Global Cafe and Tutu’s Ethiopian Table: Reading International Solidarity Centre, 35-39 London Street, Reading RG1 4PS  (good vegetarian option, inexpensive £10-15)

Brown’s Brasserie, along the riverside in the Oracle Centre (moderately priced £15-20)

Cote Brasserie, along the riverside in the Oracle Centre (moderately priced £15-20)

London Street Brasserie, 2-4 London Street (overlooking the river), Reading RG1 4PN (upmarket £20-25)

For pub grub with inside and outside seating, try the Queen’s Head in Christchurch Road not far from the conference venue and the Hillingdon Prince Hotel.  Brazilian, Chinese and Indian food can also be found not far in Whitely Street/Mount Pleasant.  If you are just arriving by train or by Heathrow Rail-Air bus, Carluccio’s is closeby in Forbury Square: its is a reliable and pleasant chain restaurant.

University of Reading Museums and Special Collections

If you are coming to Reading for Object Lesson and Nature Tables you may wish to know about University of Reading Museums and Special Collections !

University of Reading is home to some outstanding collections of exceptional research value, and some of them are open to the public during the conference and the day before. Please visit the websites for more information.

Cole Museum of Zoology (open to the public Monday–Friday 9.30–4.30pm)
Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology (During University vacation times, the Museum will be normally open only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9.00 am-4.30 pm)
University of Reading Herbarium
Harris Garden, Arboretum and Living Botany Collections
Geology Collections
Lettering, Printing and GraphicDesign Collections, including the Rickards Collections of Ephemera, the Neurath Isotype Collection, and the Non-Latin Typeface Collection
The Museum of English Rural Life (currently closed for redevelopment)
The Archive of British Printing and Publishing (archival deposit; available through the Special Collections Reading Room)
The Samuel Beckett Archive (archival deposit available through the Special Collections Reading Room)
Fine Art Collections (currently undergoing cataloguing)

Registration for Object Lessons and Nature Tables: University of Reading 23 September 2016


Registration for Object Lessons and Nature Tables is now full.  If you wish to be placed on the waiting list, please fill in the form below.  We will allocate places at the conference on a first-come, first-served basis should any currently registered delegates contact us to let us know that they cannot attend.

Conference Accommodation and Travel: Object Lessons and Nature Tables, University of Reading 23 September 2016

If you are traveling to Reading for Object Lessons and Nature Tables and need directions and a place to stay, read on !



The nearest hotel to the conference venue is:

The Hillingdon Prince
39 Christchurch Rd, Reading RG2 7AN
(UK) 0118 931 1311
(International) +44 0118 9311 311

When booking online, use the discount code ‘PCLUB’ for a reduction in rates.

Other possibilities include:

Premier Inn
Letcombe St, Reading, Berkshire RG1 2HN
0871 527 8924 (UK freephone number)



In the centre of Reading, the following hotels may also have available rooms:

Mercure George Hotel
10-12 King Street, Berkshire, Reading RG1 2HE
(UK) 0118 957 3445
(International) +44 118 957 3445

Quality Hotel (partner of the Mercure Hotel above)
4-8 Duke Street, Reading, EN, United Kingdom, RG1 4RY
(UK) 0118 957 3445
(International) +44 118 957 3445

Ibis Hotel
25A Friar St, Reading RG1 1DP
(UK) 0118 953 3500
(International) +44 118 953 3500



The University of Reading is situated in the town of Reading, Berkshire.  It has two campuses: Whiteknights Campus and London Road Campus.  The Object Lessons and Nature Tables Conference will take place in the London Road Campus, which is closer to Reading Rail Station.

Reading town is 65 kilometers west of London, and can be reached by train in 25 minutes via Great Western Railway from Paddington Station.  It is also about 30 kilometers west of Heathrow Airport, and can be reached in 45 minutes by RailAir Bus from Heathrow Central Bus Station.

From Reading Rail Station to the University of Reading Special Collections and Museum of English Rural Life (conference venue) is a 20 minute walk.  Alternatively there are taxis and buses from the rail station.

Buses 21 and 21a run every 15-20 minutes.  Get off at ‘Crown Place Passage’ (the second stop on Kendrick Road). Crown Place Passage is a footpath that can be seen to the left of Abbey School. Walk down this footpath – at the end of the path you will see, on your right hand side, the Special Collections and Museum of English Rural Life building.  If you are staying at the Hillingdon Prince, and wish to drop your bags there first, you should stay on the bus and get off two stops later at the ‘Vicarage Road’ stop.

Research Collaborations Between Historians of Science and University Museums

Object Lessons and Nature Tables: Research Collaborations Between Historians of Science and University Museums

University of Reading, 23 September 2016, 9:45 to 17:00

Venue: Special Collections and Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, Redlands Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5EX, UK


With the ‘material turn’ in the humanities, historians of science are paying greater and greater attention to collections of all kinds, and to their complex structures and histories. University museum collections in the UK and across Europe form a singular meeting point in humanities discourses for which history of science is highly significant — such as environmental history, histories of colonialism, and information histories.

What exactly does this new landscape of university researchers and their science collections look like now? How do we approach the material culture of science? What are the research projects taking place in this arena, and what is its future potential? How do collaborations between curators and historians of science function — especially inside university contexts? What are the examples of innovative research conjoining university collections and historians of science? When do teaching and research in history of science come together in collections contexts? What public histories of science are being co-produced in university- based science museums? These epistemological and practice-based questions will be the focus of this one-day conference co-sponsored by the Centre for Collections Based Research and the Department of History of the University of Reading, and supported by the British Society for the History of Science.

This conference hopes to attract historians of science of all fields and career levels, from doctoral students including CDAs through to early career researchers and senior figures, as well as curators, archivists, collections managers and research funders. The conference addresses both methods and findings, and will therefore have both formal papers in panel structures and presentations of actual collections objects.

Object animations will involve the presentation of actual collection objects, demonstrating just what incisive and relevant work can be done with material culture investigations in the history of science.

Papers and object animations will address

  • practices and methods of material culture in history of science
  • history of science research projects in university collections: practices, processes, experiences and outcomes
  • university scientific museums as arenas for the public history of science and for history of science impact
  • joint appointments, curatorships and embedded research in history of science and university museum collections
  • Collaborative Doctoral Awards in history of science and collections
  • university museums as training grounds for new practices in history of science



Dr Martha Fleming, Programme Director, Centre for Collections-Based Research, University of Reading:

Dr Rohan Deb Roy, Lecturer in South Asian History, Department of History, University of Reading:

Thanks to the generosity of the British Society for the History of Science, a number of stipends will be available to enable students to attend the conference.

University of Reading    Centre for Collections Based Research    BSHS Logo

Please note that this conference will take place the day after the University Museums Group 2016 Conference, also taking place at University of Reading.  For more information: UMG Conference 2016 ‘Better Together?’  There will be opportunities for synergy between the two conferences, including cross-over participation and a joint reception event on the evening of 22 September!

If you are attending both conferences, or if you require accommodation the night before the Object Lessons and Nature Tables conference, the closest hotel to the conference venue is the Hillingdon Prince Hotel.

header image: Cole Museum of Zoology, University of Reading (Claire Smith)