Presentation to the IATM Copenhagen Conference in May 2001 by Ken Heard
These themes are important and deserve the attention they are receiving. However, in the course of thirty years of study and research, and visits to hundreds of such museums all over the world, what I have not yet seen -- either in most of those museums, at IATM conferences or in IATM publications -- are, first, answers to basic questions about the technology depicted in those museums and, second, the actual and potential effect of these technologies on our daily lives.
Among the basic questions I have yet to see adequately answered in a museum setting are:
1. What is a railway?
2. What keeps a ship afloat?
3. What keeps an airplane in the air?
Among the effects of these technologies on our daily lives which I have yet to see adequately depicted in transport and communications museums are the following:
1. People now living more than
walking distance from their place of work and from their
primary sources of food and fuel.
2. Improved standards of living
and quality of life occasioned by availability of cheap transport
3. Changing concepts of work and leisure.
4. Effects of the
and conventions of transport and communication on the general
culture, such as the rule of the road, traffic control, and snow removal.
5. Possibility of environmental
degradation, with lower standards of living and decreased quality
of life if too much reliance is put on some forms of transport instead of others.
6. Implications of the fact that by 2020 the world will have run out of cheap oil.
short, these museums historically have concentrated on the
of the various technologies themselves. Relatively little
has been given to the basic principles on which those technologies are
based, on the results of the introduction and subsequent improvement of
those technologies, and on the problems created by unfettered growth of
their use. My presentation examined the implications of this
relative lack of attention and made suggestions as to what could
be done about it.