Scientific Archives and the Science of the Archive
Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:40 PM
New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York)
In recent years, historians of science have turned their attention to the architecture of knowledge production. This has meant looking closely at practices that shape fieldwork as well as lab work. In the realm of the history of biomedicine, this has also meant paying close attention to research materials, the small pieces that make up science. Big sciences like genomics rely on massive collections of fleshy specimens as well as digital sequences. Though often referred to as “biobanks,” in practice, these assemblages are often used in ways that appear to resonate with historians’ own engagement with the manuscript archive. In this talk I discuss how the questions historians of science have been asking about biomedicine’s archives raise others about the practice of history, more broadly. This includes viewing history as an enterprise amenable to analysis in terms of “big data.” Drawing upon several recent studies in the history of science, I offer some thoughts on the promises and perils of viewing history as a form of science.
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