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Making science at home: visual displays of space science and nuclear physics at the Science Museum and on television in postwar Britain

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Abstract:

The public presentation of science and technology in postwar Britain remains a field open to exploration. Current scholarship on the topic is growing but still tends to concentrate on the written word, thus making theorizing, at this stage, difficult. This paper is an attempt to expand the literature through two case studies that compare and synthesize displays of scientific and technological knowledge in two visual media, the Science Museum and television, in the 1950s and 1960s. The topics of these case studies are space exploration and nuclear energy. The thesis this paper explores is that both media fleshed out strategies of displays based on the use of categories from everyday life. As a result, outcomes of large-scale public scientific and technological undertakings were interwoven within audiences’ daily life experiences, thus appearing ordinary rather than extraordinary. This use of symbols and values drawn from private life worked to alleviate fears of risk associated with these new fields of technological exploration and at the same time give them widespread currency in the public sphere.
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