Why display? Representing holograms in museum collections

In Peter Morris & Klaus Staubermann (eds.), Illuminating Instruments. Washington, DC, USA: pp. 97-116 (2009)
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Abstract
The actual and potential uses of holograms in museum displays, and the philosophy of knowledge and progress that they represent. Magazine journalists, museum curators, and historians sometimes face similar challenges in making topics or technologies relevant to wider audiences. To varying degrees, they must justify the significance of their subjects of study by identifying a newsworthy slant, a pedagogical role, or an analytical purpose. This chasse au trésor may skew historical story telling itself. In science and technology studies, the problem potentially is worst for those subjects that do not retain an enduring capacity for spectacle or do not readily conform to templates of progress or economic importance. The case of holography is an excellent illustration of these points. An unusually wide-ranging subject, holography has attracted competing interpretations of intellectual novelty, technological application, and cultural significance. This paper examines the history of museum collections and exhibits of holography from the explosion of interest in the technique in 1964 to the end of the twentieth century. I argue that holography presents a particular challenge to museum collections and to popular representations of the history of science and technology.
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