Call for Papers, Posters and Sessions

Closeup detail of a precision scale
Sextant, c. 1785, Ingenium no. 2018.0111

Precision Reconsidered: Scientific Instruments, Culture and Access

Concepts of precision permeate the field of scientific instruments. Historians, curators and other scholars in the humanities have studied the rich and diverse material culture associated with precision, as well as explored multiple meanings, values and cultural dimensions of the pursuit of precision.

The etymology of the word “precision” (from Latin praecidere – “to cut off”) reveals historical tensions within scientific instrument studies, and the notion that aspects of instrument culture (material and immaterial) have been lost or discarded through the processes of refinement and use. This hints at a challenge within histories of precision, and points at opportunities to broaden, reconsider and access these histories through new perspectives and approaches, in particular through creative engagement with collections of historic scientific instruments.

The proposed overarching theme for SIC 2024 will be to explore the cultures of precision as they apply to the history of scientific instruments. We encourage participants to probe this topic through materiality, scientific and workshop practices, conservation and digital techniques, pedagogy and museology.

Through a critical lens, we invite participants to examine previously overlooked aspects within (and seemingly outside) the material culture of precision. Building on recent sessions at SIC meetings, we encourage presenters to analyse the colonial dimensions within precision technologies and practices. In a practical museum context, we encourage participants to combine these kinds of questions with collection-based scholarship and the implications for building new relationships and avenues for access.

Keeping in mind the deep connection between the history of scientific instruments and astronomy, we also look to the origins of the word “reconsider” (from the Latin con-sidereus, connoting learning “with the stars”) as inspiration for re-evaluating precision. For the past six years, Ingenium, the host for SIC 2024 has been reconsidering its approach to astronomy by working with Indigenous partners to learn more about their star knowledge and ways of knowing. This form of research demonstrates the opportunities for opening up the broader cultural context of scientific instruments and precision. Key partners in this project have been the Algonquin peoples, upon whose territory Ingenium resides.

At SIC 2024 we invite you to reflect on these and other issues related to scientific instrument studies. As is customary at SIC symposia, we welcome all proposals for sessions, papers or posters on any topic dealing with the history of scientific instruments. We particularly encourage scholars from diverse disciplinary and geographical backgrounds to explore and enrich the study of scientific instruments.


The symposium will take place as an in-person event by default, assuming there are no public health restrictions. For those who cannot attend the meeting in person there is the option of a separate SIC Online Seminar which is scheduled for the 18th to 19th of November, 2024. Please indicate when you submit your abstract proposal if you already know that you will not be able to attend the in-person symposium in Ottawa and instead want to present in the online seminar. To encourage wide participation, the conference languages will be English and French. Abstracts will be provided in both languages and we welcome oral presentations in either language.

Oral presentations will be 15 minutes followed by 5 minutes discussion. Poster presentations should consist of 1 poster up to A0 size. Session organizers may devise alternative formats if they wish e.g. panel discussions or multiple thematic short pitch papers (5-10 mins each).

Important dates

Deadline for the submission of abstracts is 31 March 2024.

Presenters and session organizers will be informed by 30 April 2024 whether their proposal has been accepted.

Early registration will close on 15 June 2024, late registration will close on 31 July 2024.

How to submit your abstract for paper, poster or session proposals

Please download the appropriate abstract submission template below by clicking on the button for paper, poster or session. Each template asks for the names of presenters, titles, a max 250 word abstract and brief biographical notes.

Paper Abstract

Once the template is completed, submit submit your paper proposal to

Poster Abstract

Once the template is completed, submit your poster proposal to

Session Abstract

Once the template is completed, submit your session proposal including all the contributors to

Any questions? Contact Us!

Best wishes,

David Pantalony (he/him), Sarah Jaworski (they/them) and Natalie King (she/her) (Ingenium, on behalf of the Ottawa Local Organizing Committee)

(Canadian Advisory Committee) Jean-François Gauvin (Laval University), Victoria Fisher (Ingenium/University of Toronto), Claude Labine (British Columbia), Anita Tenasco (Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community)

(SIC Board) Louise Devoy, Tacye Phillipson and Roland Wittje

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