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'Geek is Good' Exhibition

Home > Oxford > Exhibitions | Free | Museums
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Event: -
A celebration of the nerd
Only Oxford? The Museum of the History of Science has recently had giant plastic spectacles stolen from the nose of one of its stone heads. Why on earth were they there in the first place? This was in honour of the museum's present exhibition, entitled 'Geek is Good', which celebrates the self-evident geekiness of the Computer Science obsessive, Maths compulsive, or as they might put it... the nerd.

geek, good, museum, history, science, oxford
Geek is Good


What is a geek? Why would one choose to identify as one? When you first walk in there's a discussion panel on the term, and the exhibition channels you to confront and address your ideas on what constitutes a geek.

This is a hands-on exhibition. There are computer terminals with BASIC programming tasks, and handouts from the original manuals, dating back to the 1980s.

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Computers running BASIC - have a go!


There is also a 'Geek confessional', a photo booth with a difference where they are inviting visitors to sit and confess their geek moments with pride. It isn't clear what they want to do with this data, but as a celebration of cerebral quirkiness, one hopes it will be a glorious riot of intellectual blooms.

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Geek confessional


A number of topics fill the exhibition. Beyond the computer coding, there are examples of the first tinted glasses, the precursor to the modern sunglasses. We know that different coloured lenses can help with learning difficulties, and migraine, let alone protecting eyes, but here are some of the original glasses of that type, in a fetching blue / turquoise.

geek, good, museum, history, science, oxford, sunglasses
Sunglasses, the old way!

'Philomath' turns up as a concept - those people who just love Maths in all its different guises. There is a giant slide rule on the wall, with information about how important they were in previous eras.

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Slide rule


The exhibition is great for bringing together the recent and more distant past. They ask the question 'Was Chaucer a Geek?' because of his interest in astrolabes. As the museum has a particularly fine collection of this instruments, it makes for a very interesting put-stop on the tour.

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Chaucer and the astrolabes


Computers started the size of whole rooms, but are now tiny things, fitting in our mobile phones and other devices. Here we see the minute lauded (the Raspberry Pi occupies a case of its own) but also the development of such humble computers as the pocket calculator too.

geek, good, oxford, museum, history, science, calculator
Pocket calculators of old


There's information about the exhibition on the museum website. The museum is housed in a beautiful building, but this means that the combination of stone steps up and stately wooden steps down make it somewhat inaccessible for prams and wheelchairs.

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Glassless stone heads outside Geek is Good


As the exhibition says:

Social misfit or 21st-century icon of cool? The geek is sometimes ridiculed, sometimes celebrated, but often behind the latest developments in science and technology.

Beginning in the present day this exhibition sweeps backwards in time, from the geeky enterprise of 1980s home computing all the way to medieval astronomical instruments. Was Chaucer a geek? Were the beautiful devices of the past the geek gadgets of their day? And with our screen-based, computer-driven lifestyles are we all geeks now?

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Merchandise to accompany the exhibition


Over in the shop you can purchase various merchandise items to declare your inner geek to the world. Geek is chic, as much as good, and this exhibition does a grand job of celebrating that in a fabulous venue.
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Why? A celebration of all things geeky
When: Tuesday - Friday 12-5, Saturday 10-5, Sunday 205
Where: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
Cost: free
Your Comment
Excellent. And did you go to the confessional?? ;)
by Erin Connelly (score: 2|522) 1268 days ago
Sounds like an excellent exhibition.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11560) 1268 days ago
Congratulations for getting 3rd place.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11560) 1258 days ago
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