Tackling Transport

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Helmuth Trischler, Stefan Zeilinger
Science Museum, 2003 - Museum techniques - 186 pages
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In this book historians from museums and academia examine transport artefacts and the systems of mobility in which they are embedded. Large artefacts -- such as the Stephensons' Rocket locomotive, a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, a Ford Model T -- are impressive manifestations of engineering ingenuity. They help museum visitors understand the design and use of the technologies that move people and goods. But they are also historical icons, so different audiences -- be they professional historians of technology or casual visitors -- will interpret them in different ways. In a transport exhibition individual artefacts can dominate a visitor's attention, overwhelming the themes expressed by other material. The power of such an artefact helps to attract interest, but at the same time endangers its incorporation into a larger system. Curators have to find ways to demonstrate the systemic nature of transport by integrating these objects with others: the smaller component artefacts, such as electrochemical batteries, pneumatic tyres and dashboards; and the social artefacts, such as drivers, consumers, rules and institutions. The authors consider a variety of transport artefacts, from pioneering steam locomotives and early automobile interiors, to jet engines and the automatically guided cars of the future. Those with curatorial responsibilities also reflect on how theoretical notions about transport can be expressed in the practical context of a museum, and how a reappraisal of visitors' responses to transport artefacts is leading to new ways of showcasing the history of mobility.

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About the author (2003)

Helmuth Trischler is head of the research department of the Deutsches Museum and Professor of History and History of Technology at the University of Munich.

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