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Atoms in wonderland

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This paper examines the representation of atomic science in Britain in museums, exhibitions, and print in the period 1945-1960. Due to postwar shortages, authors and publicists initially relied more on the written text than on visual representation. Underlying much writing was the idea of the "intelligent layman," which formed a shorthand way of conceptualizing the non-specialist reading public, and accounts for much of the approach and tone of writing. The paper then examines the constraints of presenting atomic science in the Science Museum, London, and the 1951 Festival of Britain, as well as a range of publications for the wider market. These include the official publications of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the enthusiastic output of the Institute of Atomic Information for the Layman, as well as works such as George Gamow's Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland. The use of images from Alice in Wonderland is examined as recurring motif for presenting an optimistic view of the benign potential of atomic science.

Keywords: Atoms; Exhibitions; Images; Museums; Popularization

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0734151032000123936

Affiliations: School of Arts and Media, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough TS1 3BA, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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