Autumn Semester 2020 takes place in a mixed form of online and classroom teaching.
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851-0101-53L  Collections in Context: What Do Historians and Scientists Learn from Butterflies, Stones, and Bones?

SemesterAutumn Semester 2016
LecturersB. Schär, M. Greeff
Periodicitynon-recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish
CommentParticularly suitable for students of D-BIOL, D-BSSE, D-USYS


AbstractZurich holds huge scientific collections. They contain objects from around the world, some of them dating back to the 18th century. This interdisciplinary seminar combines perspectives from the history of science and from current scientific disciplines. What do these objects tell us about Zurich's place in the global history of science? What potentials do old collections hold for scientists today?
ObjectiveThe aim of this seminar is threefold: Firstly, students will become familiarised with historiographical approaches to scientific collections. Among them are constructivist approaches that seek to understand scientific knowledge not primarily as a system of objective truths, but rather as an outcome of human 'constructions'. Other approaches deal with the problem of how scientific objects are related to systems of power and oppression, namely in the case of objects collected during the time of european colonialism overseas. Secondly, students will become familiarized with how old collections can yeald new insights for current scientists working, e.g., on questions of ecology. Thirdly, the seminar shall serve as a plattform to discuss ways of dialogue and possible collaboration between these different approaches.

Students will be expected to read theoretical texts and case studies during semester, participate in discussions with external experts (historians, curators, and scientists), and to write a summarizing essay at the end of the term.