Inclusive Museum Journal Award

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of The Inclusive Museum Research Network.

Award Winner for Volume 8

Humanizing and Heroizing the Fetus: The Production of Reproduction at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry

This article contributes to the scholarly literature on the politics of representation in museums, particularly related to scientific knowledge. Much of the criticism and scholarship surrounding museums as political institutions has focused on natural history, ethnographic, or art museums. However, a relatively small amount of scholarship delves into the politics of science in museums. Fundamental to such studies are the view that scientific knowledge is best conceived as a process rather than as a product. This paper presents a case study analyzing the representation of reproduction in a major science museum to show how specific orientations of exhibits shape the production of scientific knowledge as well as the experience of the visitor. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry’s “Your Beginnings” exhibit, and the preserved collection of human embryos and fetuses that it displays, represents a significant historical and contemporary effort towards producing knowledge about reproduction in the museum setting. In-depth analysis of the current exhibit revealed the presentation and reinforcement of a dominant, biological narrative of reproduction. The exhibit places the majority of agency with the fetus while simultaneously commodifying and elevating the fetus as both a human and heroic figure. While recognizing the limitations of such methods of “reading” exhibits and my own bias and subjective experience in the exhibit, I argue “Your Beginnings” presents a valuable case study of the challenges facing museums exhibiting controversial topics and the limitations of representing scientific knowledge. I ultimately hope this article inspires further developments and illustrates the need to reevaluate the inclusivity of established exhibit narratives.

Past Award Winners

Volume 7

Accessibility of Museums in Barbados

Allison Callender, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 7, Issue 1, 17-27


Volume 6

Keeping Interactive Art Interactive

Jennifer Eiserman and Gerald Hushlak, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 2, 183-196


Volume 5

Re-envisioning the Museum: Developing the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina during an Economic Crisis

Mary Battle, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 5, Issue 1, 11-24


Volume 4

Facilitating Inclusivity: The Politics of Access and Digitisation in a South African and Canadian Museum

Laura Kate Gibson and Hannah Turner, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 4, Issue 1, 1-14


Volume 3

Inclusivity, Objectivity, and The Ideal: The Museum as Utopian Space

Donald Dunham, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 3, 39-48


Volume 2

New Media Interactivity in the Museum: Democratisation or Dumbing Down?

Ingrid Templer, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 2, Issue 1, 165-178


Volume 1

Beyond the Rational Museum: Toward a Discourse of Inclusion

Janice Baker, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 2, 23-30