Tools of Knowledge

Modelling the Creative Communities of the Scientific Instrument Trade, 1550-1914
Case Study A

The metallurgical (XRF) analysis of a large number of instruments, initially from the Whipple Museum, then from partner collections. Object selection criteria: across five centuries covered by project; with a known maker and place of origin; of secure provenance. The analysis, conducted by trained Whipple Museum staff using Bruker Trace III-SD machine, will create the first data-set of its kind, to further understanding of the circulation of materials (as opposed to fully-assembled instruments).

Case Study B

Identify key moments of change/disjuncture in the activity of individuals during the early trade, integrating local and national perspectives. The relative paucity of data for the early trade requires systematic addition of new biographical information from collections, augmented by archival findings (some published but not yet incorporated into SIMON).

Case Study C

Develop classificatory tools to identify changes in corporate structures: eg. transitions between autonomous craftsperson, through the division of labour, to the development of modern firms and limited companies. Enhance and organise individual SIMON entries to more accurately represent the number of distinct sources of instruments at any given time (eg. grouping together apprentices working at the same address).

Case Study D

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, as a node in networks circulating mathematical and optical instruments. Volunteer-transcribed records, additional archival and object based research, combined with contemporary geospatial data, will illuminate the instrument makers working for the Observatory (local); the grading of chronometers by the ROG for international circulation (global), and the influence on the trade (national).

Marine Timekeeper; H1 made by John Harrison ca. 1735; brass; bronze; steel; oak; lignum vitae; National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; London. © Royal Museums Greenwich.
Case Study E

The presence or ‘visibility’ of instruments, as objects of display, public use (in lectures), and symbols of science, towards an analysis of the cultural perception of instruments, individually and within assemblages. Analysis of existing corpora (including EEBO, ECCO), combining corpus linguistic (co-occurrence, concordance), natural language processing (topic modelling, trained classifier models), and ‘computer vision’ of key visual sources (trade cards, British Library Flickr commons, r.18).

Case Study F

The micro-geography of the London instrument trade in relation to allied trades/associated institutions, cross-reference to factors from Case Studies B & C ) Activity to be mapped on MOLA street graphs of the developing city from the late 17th to early-19th century, to trace and interrogate the changing geographies of the trade’s communities.

Case Study G

Investigates how instruments functioned within industry and as crucial parts of government regulation and pedagogy. This Case Study poses fundamental questions about which kinds of instruments, fitted for which purposes and in which circumstances, were most significant in transforming the trade.