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Science museums, photography, and astronomy

Andrée Bergeron y Charlotte Bigg en una sesión doble en el CEHIC, entre los actos de celebración del 20 aniversario del centro
cehic 12/10/2015

El proper divendres 16 d'octubre tindrem al CEHIC la primera activitat acadèmica per a celebrar el 20è aniversari de la fundació del Centre i la nova ubicació en el nou edifici de recerca. Ho celebrarem amb una sessió doble dedicada als museus de ciència i a l'astronomia popular. Aquest doble seminari tindrà lloc a la sala de seminaris L3-05 del nou CEHIC, Mòdul de Recerca de Ciències (MRC), Carrer de Can Magrans, UAB. Ens agradaria molt poder comptar amb la vostra presència aquest divendres, i poder compartir amb vosaltres aquest moment de celebració. 


"Bringing a Museum to Life/Organising Museums: the multifaceted international activities of the Palais de la Découverte in its early Years (1930s-1950s)"

Andrée Bergeron

Centre Alexandre Koyré (UMR 8560 EHESS-CNRS-MNHN) et Universcience, Paris

The Palais de la découverte, initially founded as a part of the 1937 international exposition in Paris, has usually been studied from the point of view of its significance within the national context. Created by renowned scientists close to Léon Blum’s Popular Front government, it played an important role in the invention of national science policy in France and materialized the desire to present science to “the people of Paris”.

Widening the focus and looking at an international perspective leads to a more complex interpretation suggesting that the Palais also expressed the militant scientific and political internationalism of its founders and that, more than an isolated experimental production within the Expo, it might rather be viewed as the French and scientific concrete translation of an international and general movement wishing to promote and structure intellectual work in a broader sense.

After the exhibition closed and following the early wish of its founders, the Palais became a permanent institution. With the exception of the German occupation period, the museum worked intensely to develop international exchanges and partnerships and was, after the Second World War, a major actor of the international organization of science museums and planetariums.


Andrée Bergeron is an assistant professor in epistemology and history of science and technology at Universcience as well as a member of the Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris. After completing a training in geophysics, Andrée joined the Palais de la Découverte as an assistant professor. The experience of working within a science museum led her to reflect upon the cultural inscription of science itself: how it operates, the functions it fulfills, the issues at stake in its realisation. In the 1990s her research accordingly shifted to the human and social sciences. Her current work focusses on the history of popularization of science in the 20th century France mainly through a science policy perspective.

Andrée has (co-)organised several workshops and research seminars including La science dans les espaces culturels et médiatiques (Palais de la Découverte/ENS Cachan, 2005-2008) and Musées, culture et société (Centre Alexandre Koyré/EHESS, 2002-2005). Together with Charlotte Bigg (CNRS/ Centre Alexandre Koyré) and Jochen Hennig (Humboldt Universität, Berlin) she coordinated the project Matières à penser : Les mises en scène des sciences et leurs enjeux. 19e-21e siècles. She has also taught in several programmes in museum studies, communication, and history of science (Universities of Strasbourg, Paris-Diderot, Orsay, Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, ENS Cachan, CNED).



"An entangled History of Astronomy and Photography"

 Charlotte Bigg (CNRS/Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris)

The paper presents some of the issues at stake in a project that seeks to bridge the history of science and the history of photography. Since the early days of photography, astronomical phenomena and concerns have been of special importance in the development of the technique. There have been intense and sustained, if largely overseen, exchanges between astronomers, photographers, instrument makers and emulsion researchers around a shared set of problems, skills and material ressources. In the 19th century the utopian view of photography as a device for exact and authentic recording of reality was put to an especially hard test in astronomy (extraordinarily distant objects, extraordinarily high expectations of precision and reliability), but it also stimulated research, the development and refinement of photographic methods that found uses in many other fields of pursuit and also, in turn, deeply transformed astronomy. I will examine different modalities of the intersection between photographic and astronomical cultures that cast new light on the historical development of astrophotography.


Charlotte Bigg trained as an historian of science at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. She worked at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and at ETH Zurich before joining the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/ Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris in 2009. She has published widely on the social and cultural history of the chemical, physical and astronomical sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her work focuses especially on the elaboration of optical instruments and visual cultures in scientific practice and their circulation among a range of audiences. Charlotte is currently a visiting fellow of the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin where she plans to complete a book manuscript entitled Photography and Astronomy, to appear in Reaktion Books' Exposure Series. 

Recodeu també que divendres 23 d’octubre, a les 12:00, comptarem amb el Professor Robert Fox (University of Oxford), una de les figures clau de la nostra disciplina, que ens parlarà de: “Science without frontiers. Cosmopolitanism and national interests in modern Europe”