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Dr Geoffrey Belknap
Keeper, Department of Science and Technology
Specific responsibility: The Department of Science and Technology, its staff, projects and collections.
Research interest/expertise: History of science, photography, visual culture, digital humanities, and participatory museum practice.

Geoffrey Belknap is Keeper for the Department of Science and Technology.

Geoff is a curator and historian of photography, science and visual culture in the 19-21st centuries, with particular interests in the material practices of photography; citizen science and digital humanities; and participatory practice in museums.

Having completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge in the History and Philosophy of Science in 2011 he has worked as a researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University on both the Charles Darwin and John Tyndall Correspondence Project and at Leicester University and the Natural History Museum he was a post-doctoral research associate on the Constructing Scientific Communities in the 19th and 21st Centuries. In 2017, Geoff joined the National Science and Media Museum as the Curator of Photography and Photographic Technology, before becoming the Head Curator in 2018.

He has published in articles and chapters in journals and edited volumes in the history of science, photography and visual culture, including Nature, the British Journal for the History of Science and History of Science. His first monograph, From a Photograph, was published in 2016 with Bloomsbury Press on the history of photography in 19th periodical publication. He has appeared in print, TV and Radio media, including the recent BBC 4 serial broadcast The Art of Innovation.

Geoff is currently the Co Primary Investigator on the AHRC funded project, Communities and Crowds: Expanding Volunteer Programs Across Physical and Digital Spaces for Cultural Institutions. In collaboration with and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the project is exploring how you can bridge the gap between an in person volunteer experience at a museum and an online volunteer experience through a citizen science platform. In particular, the project is interested in how we can afford the space for volunteers to make decisions around which parts of a museums collection gets documented and digitized, and how this can transform the type of questions asked in a citizen science project. Geoff is also one of the Co-Investigators on the AHRC funded ‘Towards a National Collection’ project The Congruence Engine: Digital Tools for New Collections-Based Industrial Histories.

Geoff joined National Museums Scotland in 2022.

Selected publications

Geoffrey Belknap, “Through the Looking Glass: Photography, Science and Imperial Motivations in John Thomson’s Photographic Expeditions,” History of Science 52, no. 1 (2014): 73–97

Geoffrey Belknap, From a Photograph. Authenticity, Science the Periodical Press, 1870-1890 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).

Geoffrey Belknap, “Illustrating Natural History: Images, Periodicals, and the Making of Nineteenth-Century Scientific Communities,” The British Journal for the History of Science 51, no. 3 (September 2018): 395–422.

Geoffrey Belknap, “150 Years of Scientific Illustration,” Nature 575, no. 7781 (November 5, 2019): 25–28.

Geoffrey Belknap, “Natural History Periodicals and Changing Conceptions of the Naturalist Community, 1828–65,” in Science Periodicals in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Constructing Scientific Communities, ed. Gowan Dawson et al. (University of Chicago Press, 2020).

Geoffrey Belknap, “The Print after Photography: Talbot and the Invention of the ‘Photographic’ Print,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 42, no. 2 (March 14, 2020): 221–42.

Geoffrey Belknap and Sophie Defrance, “Photographs as Scientific and Social Objects in the Correspondence of Charles Darwin,” in Photographs, Museums, Collections. Between Art and Information, ed. Elizabeth Edwards and Christopher Morton (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

Katy Barrett and Geoffrey Belknap, “Locating Disease Spread: Cholera to Coronavirus and the Art of the Image,” Interface Focus 11, no. 6 (12 October 2021)

Michael D. Barton et al., eds., The Correspondence of John Tyndall, Volume 9, vol. 9 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022).

Barbara Heinisch et al., “Citizen Humanities,” The Science of Citizen Science, 2021, 97.

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