ABTEM Autumn Seminar: The Death of the Machine?
THE DEATH OF THE MACHINE? What future for machines in museum collections?
This programme will look at the current status of industrial machinery in UK museums and ask whether the long-term sustainability of machinery collections could or indeed should be ensured.
The UK’s remaining industrial collections are faced with significant threats to their survival, and these show little sign of abating.
Current challenges include:
Ongoing funding cuts, the demise of industrial-collection-specialist curators and conservators, nationwide deindustrialisation and the rapid growth in automation, and education curriculums offering fewer opportunities to learn about industrial machinery.
Will the rise of what has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where emerging technologies begin to blur the lines between the physical and digital realms, cast a shadow over the machines of former industrial ages, and send industrial collections further into obscurity, or can museums embrace the technological revolution to revive and enhance interest in machines that revolutionized the 18th and 19th centuries?
What’s more, should they? With a decline in industrial collecting opportunities and a growing movement for community-driven museums, might there be a case for mothballing machinery collections and focussing on user participation – with increased access initiatives in the form of working-exhibit rides and demonstrations, and tours and activities behind the scenes?
Industrial collections are facing one of the most challenging times in their history, and the actions that are taken now will have a lasting impact long into the future.
The meeting will also include the ABTEM Annual General Meeting
10:00 – Registration, tea, coffee and biscuits
10:45 – Introduction – Jack Kirby (Group Head of Collections Services, Science Museum)
11:00 – Tim Bryan (Chair, ABTEM)
'ABTEM’s Larger and Working Objects Project'
11:30 – Oliver Green, (freelance, former Head Curator, London Transport Museum)
Is it art or does it move? Can we make machines more interesting? Museums of science, transport and technology face a huge challenge in the struggle to engage wider audiences. How do you get beyond the nerds without dumbing down? Can science embrace art?
12:00 – Ben Russell (Curator of Mechanical Engineering, Science Museum)
'The Raid on Raglan: the commemorative role of machines in museums'
12:45 – Lunch
1:45 – Laura Musgrave (former Engagement Officer, Coventry Transport Museum)
‘The redevelopment of Coventry Transport Museum – how people’s stories took centre stage’
2:00 – Daniel Martin (Curator, Museum of Making, Derby)
‘The Museum of Making – co-producing a resilient future for Derby’s industrial collections'
2:15 – Open discussion and debate with speakers
3:15 – Tea/coffee/biscuits
3:45 – ABTEM AGM
4:15 – End