'HMS Assistance in the ice (1850-51)' by Thomas Sewell Robins (BHC4239)
This July the Museum held a conference with the Royal Society and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge on the theme of 'Scientific Voyaging: Histories and Comparisons'. Apart from the first evening, with a keynote address by Joyce Chaplain of Harvard University on Science, Circumnavigation and Modernity in the NMM lecture theatre and a reception in the Queen's House, the conference was held at the Royal Society in central London.
Largely drawing on events of the 18th and 19th centuries, the papers mainly looked at the relationship between maritime exploration and scientific inquiry. Speakers had been encouraged to move beyond the well-known accounts of Captain Cook, Alexander von Humboldt or the voyage of HMS Challenger, and so they turned to topics such as the importance of visual imagery in communicating knowledge over a distance and the relationship between field workers and the individuals, societies and governments who collated their efforts. The list of speakers' institutional affiliations was impressively international, and allowed for discussions that drew on knowledge of British, South American, North American, Australian, French and Spanish contexts.
'HMS Erebus and Terror with native craft in New Zealand (August 1841)' by John Wilson Carmichael (BHC1214)
The thanks of the Museum and the Royal Society must go to Simon Schaffer of the University of Cambridge for steering the intellectual content of the conference and for gathering together a diverse and stimulating range of speakers. It seemed particularly appropriate to hear these papers in the surroundings of an institution that was the impetus for many past scientific voyages. It also gave participants the chance to see the Society's temporary exhibition, 'Is seeing believing? The art of science', which linked very well to the conference's focus on scientific imagery.
Dip circle, relic of Sir John Franklin's last expedition 1845-6 (AAA2223)
You can get more information on the NMM's conference and seminar programme, at: www.nmm.ac.uk/conferences.