I made it back to the Cities in one piece after a pleasant (though rainy) weekend in DC.  Some highlights of the meeting/trip:

  • My friend’s apartment was around the corner from the place Fighting Bob LaFollette lived when he was a senator, in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
  • The TEMSIG (technology museum group) lunch meeting was a great opportunity to meet new folks and talk public history.  We’ll be launching a blog or listserv or some other communication network soon, so folks interested in the material culture of technology should watch this space for updates.
  • Smithsonian report:  I went to the Freer to see lovely art from the early Islamic world, and tried to go to the National Archives exhibits, but was thwarted by the huge line of tourists snaking around the corner.  I tragically did not have enough time to go to the National Museum of the American Indian, and, also tragically, the American History museum is closed this year.
  • I heard some excellent papers, including one from Kara Swanson on breast milk banks.
  • I went up to Walter Reed to visit the National Museum of Health and Medicine, which was instructive and about which I’ll have a lot to say here presently.
  • At the NMHM I saw the amputated leg of the Civil War general Daniel Sickles, which he visited at the museum yearly on the anniversary of his amputation.  This reminded me of the recent story on the interwebs about the woman visiting her own heart at the Wellcome; I believe I can find a number of other examples for an interesting research project.
  • With my friend who was in town for the papermakers’ conference, I met the terrific artist/physician Eric Avery, who was in town for yet another conference (bioethics, IIRC).  He’s a printmaker and also does really challenging art/medicine interventions, such as setting up an HIV clinic in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard.
  • My own paper went well, and though one presenter had to drop out of my session, there were surprising resonances between my paper and that of Anne Schoenfeld of Pratt, who spoke about Make magazine, especially around movements to and from expertise and the gendering of public images of technologies; these connections were well commented on by Jennifer Alexander.  I was able to use my visit to the NMHM in my talk; they had a vial of Neosalvarsan, a syringe, and some needles on display in an arsenic exhibit, neatly proving my point about the needle symbolizing scientific medicine.  Thanks to all for the perceptive comments, and to Mary and Rhea for coming as well.