Article ID: CBB001320133

The Politics of Participation: Francis Galton's Anthropometric Laboratory and the Making of Civic Selves (2013)


Historians have given much attention to museums and exhibitions as sites for the production and communication of knowledge in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But few studies have analysed how the activity and participation of visitors was designed and promoted at such locations. Using Francis Galton's Anthropometric Laboratory at the International Health Exhibition in London 1884 as the empirical focal point, this paper explores a new mode of involving exhibition audiences in the late nineteenth century. Its particular form of address is characterized by an ambition to transform the visitors' self-understanding by engaging them with various techniques of scientific observation and representation of social issues. By analysing the didactics of this particular project, I argue that the observational ideal of 'mechanical objectivity' and associated modes of representation in this instance became an integrated part of a political vision of self-observation and self-reformation. Thus the exhibit and related projects by Galton not only underpinned a theoretical lesson, but also were part of an effort to extend a complex set of practices among the general public.


Description On Francis Galton's Anthropometric Laboratory at the International Health Exhibition in London 1884 and the effort at involving exhibition audiences in the late nineteenth century

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Authors & Contributors
Hoffenberg, Peter H.
Durbach, Nadja
Tromp, Marlene
Lightman, Bernard V.
Plunkett, John
Sullivan, Jill A.
British Journal for the History of Science
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
History of Science
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
University of California Press
Pickering & Chatto
Ohio State University Press
Cambria Press
Liverpool University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Exhibitions and fairs
Science and society
Science and culture
Natural history
Galton, Francis
Roberts, Charles
Great Britain
19th century
20th century
20th century, early

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