26 February 1997
Connecting with curiosity'There are many elements in Australian history that we are keen to celebrate, commemorate and explore, why not science?', asks Tim Sherratt, the developer of the Cabinet of Curiosities. 'Australia's scientific past is full of fascinating stories and personalities, and yet there remains the perception that science is basically done overseas. Australia always has been a clever country - and I'm not just talking about the stump-jump plough!'
The Cabinet of Curiosities is Sherratt's latest attempt to popularise the history of Australian science. As Deputy Director of the Australian Science Archives Project, he has working for a number of years to improve access to the sources which tell the tale of Australia's scientific achievements. He is particularly proud of Bright Sparcs, a series of interlinked, WWW-based resources that provide information on over 2,000 Australian scientists.
'In developing Bright Sparcs and the Cabinet of Curiosities I wanted to provide both the inspiration and the means to explore the history of Australian science', Sherratt explains. 'While Bright Sparcs leads you into the sources, the Cabinet raises some of the fundamental questions and themes. Curiosity is the key - the curiosity that drives Australia's men and women of science, and the curiosity that connects such projects to their audience.'
Sherratt's own research as a historian focuses on the 'atomic age' in Australia. 'It's an interesting period because of the way that "science" was suddenly seen as shaping our daily lives. Once again, I suppose I'm interested in those points of connection - where science takes on meaning in people's lives. What sorts of meanings appear? And how are those meanings created?'
While the Cabinet of Curiosities was Sherratt's idea, he has been suprised and excited about the way the project has developed. 'It has been a privilege to work on', he comments, 'In history, it's not often that you get to see your ideas take on physical form. The artists have created something with many layers of meaning. Something to ponder over. Something to admire. I hope that all those who see the Cabinet will have their own curiosities whetted'.
Prepared by Tim Sherratt (Tim.Sherratt@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
for publication on ASAPWeb. Last modified 25 June 1997.