Continuous care of The Nutrition Society’s records and corporate memory has produced an archive of information assets that evidence collaborations between nutritional scientists since 1941. Primary source material of biographical and historical importance captures the critical thinking behind political and social drivers that developed nutritional science. The authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability of these records is captured in ways that ensures future researchers will have access to information and be able to examine, analyse and circulate new ideas in the future.
Understanding that an exhibition has the power to animate a collection and inspire new audiences, the Society decided to host its first theme specific exhibition at the 2018 Summer Conference at University of Leeds. The conference and archive exhibition theme ‘Getting energy balance right’ provided a narrative to trace ideologies concerning obesity and capture the scope of the Society’s evolving European and International collaboration on this topic. The International Union of Nutrition Societies (IUNS) and Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) characterise this ideal through their meetings, emphasising that energy balance is a recurring topic which remains as important today as it was in 1919.
This exhibition showcased 69 items from the archives to signify the history of the conference theme and the effects and affects of continuous scientific collaboration. Engaging with ideas at the intersection between archives and nutritional science highlighted how energy balance has been explored for almost one hundred years. Methods of discussion are more sophisticated and professional as understanding of nutrition and energy balance has become more nuanced: the emphasis changing from malnutrition to obesity.
The expertise of the conference visitors enhanced the exhibition with discussions reflecting different points of view: they could look, read, touch, think, create, write, talk and share. At the Archives Interactive table delegates responded to statements selected from documents in the Society’s archives, concerning energy balance, weighing their opinion against the statement by selecting a blue counter to agree with the statement, a yellow counter to disagree with the statement or a white counter to show uncertainty. In this participatory experience, people engaged with nutritional voices from the past and became enlightened how language has changed over time to articulate scientific ideas.
The Nutrition Society Archives, Library and Records Manager