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2016 | Soraya de Chadarevian – The Future Historian: Reflections on the Archives of Contemporary Sciences

ISG professor, Soraya de Chadarevian, has published a paper titled “The Future Historian: Reflections on the Archives of Contemporary Sciences” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 55 (2016) 54-60

Abstract:
Historians working on recent science work close to where the archives are created or become accessible.
Based on this experience, the essay presents a reflection on the archives of contemporary life sciences. It
addresses three questions: firstly, what is special about the archival situation of contemporary sciences?
Secondly, which sources do contemporary historians use and what opportunities and challenges do they
offer? And finally, what potential changes to the archives of contemporary sciences are we witnessing?
The essay draws a distinction between, on the one side, the history of science when the actors are still
aliveda situation that presents a particular set of issues in respect to the available sourcesdand, on the
other side, questions relating specifically to the life sciences at the turn of the millenniumda period
which will eventually not be considered as ’contemporary’ any more. It reviews changes in scientific
practice, historiographical trends and archival practices and considers the place of paper records, digital
sources, material artefacts and oral sources in the archives of contemporary sciences. It argues that the
commercialisation and privatisation of science may prove a bigger problem for the future historian than
the shift to the digital medium. It concludes by welcoming the closer interactions between scientists,
historians, curators and archivists prompted by recent developments.

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