Thesis Contents




The Culture of Enthusiasm


Technology, Collecting and Museums






Hilary Geoghegan






Royal Holloway

University of London




Thesis Abstract


This PhD thesis considers the culture of technology enthusiasm, principally through an ethnographic study of three UK enthusiast groups: the Telecommunications Heritage Group, the Computer Conservation Society and the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society. The thesis explores the various knowledges, performances and spaces associated with technology enthusiasm, focussing specifically on the relationships between enthusiasts, objects and museums, with particular reference to the collections of the Science Museum in London. This research is situated in the context of wider debates over museums, collections, conservation and access.


Chapter 1 introduces technology enthusiasm as the subject of this thesis and highlights the relevant policy contexts. Chapter 2 provides an account of academic scholarship exploring the sociological literature on enthusiasm, fandom and serious leisure, recent work on technical and material cultures, as well as public history and museology. Chapter 3 explores the methodological strategy adopted in this thesis and reflects particularly on the researcher’s encounters with enthusiasts and access to museums. Chapter 4 explores how technology enthusiasm is organised in groups, how societies communicate with their members through journals and online discussion forums and how an enthusiasm for technology is performed at group events. Chapter 5 examines the enthusiast’s attachment to technology, the practices of collecting and hoarding, the place of technology enthusiasm in the field and at home and the afterlife of the enthusiast’s personal collections. Chapter 6 considers the professional and the enthusiast in the museum context and explores their various relationships to technology’s material record through ideas of expert knowledge and ‘object love’. Finally, chapter 7 identifies the culture of enthusiasm and suggests future directions for research in this area.


Table of Contents


Declaration of Originality



Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Acronyms



Chapter 1: Introduction



Chapter 2: Enthusiasm, Technology and Museums


2.1          Enthusiasm


Fan Studies

Serious Leisure: Neither Dabblers nor Professionals


2.2          Technology

Technical Culture

Material Culture: The Afterlife of Things


2.3          Museums

Enthusiasm and Public History

Museums and ‘Woolly Hats’



Chapter 3: Researching Technology Enthusiasm


3.1          Encountering Technology Enthusiasm

The Enthusiast Groups

Making Contact and Observation

Secondary Material

Ethnographic Interviewing


3.2          Accessing the Science Museum 



Chapter 4: Technology Enthusiast Groups



4.1          Organising Enthusiasm


The Membership

Women and Technology Enthusiasm

Future Membership


4.2          Communicating Enthusiasm

Traditional Media

Online Media


4.3          Performing Enthusiasm

AGM and Conference

Lectures and Seminars

Study Days and Workshops

Monitoring and Recording



4.4          Enthusiasm and Friendship



Chapter 5: Objects of Enthusiasm



5.1          Getting Hooked: Encounters with Technology

Technological Nostalgia

Dedicated Instrument Sniffers: Sensing Enthusiasm


5.2          Collecting and Hoarding

The Enthusiast-Collector




5.3          Enthusiasm in Place

At Home

In the Field


5.4          The Afterlife of Enthusiast Collections



Chapter 6: Enthusiasm in the Museum Context



6.1          Enthusiasts and Museum Professionals

The Curator

Museum Artefacts: Conservation

Material People


6.2          At the Science Museum: Volunteering

Volunteer Enthusiasm

The CCS at the Science Museum

Working Parties


6.3          Towards an Improved Engagement

Enthusiast Groups and Museums

The Challenges

The Great Undisplayed: Blythe House



Chapter 7: Conclusion



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