Science in the service of religion? A museum study

Portrait of Mathilde Daussy-Renaudin

Mathilde Daussy-Renaudin (University College London in partnership with the History of Science Museum in Oxford)

Supervised by Dr Silke Ackermann (Oxford) and Professor Michael J. Reiss (London). 

Mathilde graduated from the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, in 2014, with a medieval architecture speciality. She also did her two-year Master’s degree at the Ecole du Louvre in Art History and Museology and graduated with distinction in 2017. She was then chosen to enter a selective program to prepare for the French curator’s examination, before moving in Oxford. 

In 2016, she was an intern in the Decorative Arts Department in the Louvre, where she worked to write new labels for the maiolicas collection, and, in 2017, she did a six-months internship in the Museum of Cluny, as assistant curator. Throughout her studies, Mathilde was a volunteer in Paris museums and heritage monuments and sites; she has also worked at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford.

Mathilde’s research investigates the collections of scientific instruments of the History of Science Museum in Oxford. With an immense number of astrolabes, sundials and other astronomical instruments that also carry religious quotations or astrological engravings, this collection raises many questions about the relationships between science and religions. Mathilde’s CDP doctoral project is a museum study at the crossing of many subjects, and she is passionate about this interdisciplinary aspect.

She is also interested in the very labels of the objects. Indeed, museums label some object ‘Islamic instruments’ or ‘Islamic science’ whereas the phrases ‘Christian instruments’ and ‘Christian science’ are not used. So, she will investigate other ways of labelling objects, new narratives to present them. 

Mathilde will focus on how to redisplay this collection in the light of Vision 2024, the ambitious strategy to ‘revolutionise’ the museum for its centenary. She will develop and trial new displays and monitor visitors’ responses to them in close collaboration with local communities and other museums with similar collections.