Troubling Standards


Thursday 13 July 2023  |  1-day community participatory research workshop
Venue: History of Science Museum, Broad Street, Oxford


Hosted by:


History of Science Museum Logo (4 colour)




Birmingham Museums Logo Vertical RGB


Outcomes and Impact

Our workshop took place in July 2023.

Find out more on the Research Project page and read the workshop outputs in our Troubling Standards pamphlet.

What's it all about?


Whether it's weight, height, width, length or distance – measurement is a part of our daily lives.

When we:


Cooking cups for measurement


Shopping dummy with tape measure


Travel signposts with distances measured


Callipers used for measurement at work



we measure.

That's why at the History of Science Museum and Birmingham Museums Trust, we care for many objects used for those daily acts of measurement.

In South Asia during the 1800s and early 1900s, British colonial powers worked to standardise how people measured. And an important group of our objects connect to the daily lives of South Asian people during that period.

For example, in 1798, the East India Company’s Madras Presidency set up the Committee of Weights and Measures. For over 45 years, the Committee worked to impose on local communities their own weights and rules for measuring — pushing aside the measuring rod, vessels and weighing stones common in households, cultivated fields and markets.

We'll be exploring questions like:

  • What happens when people are forced to change — or abandon — such fundamental traditions and practices?
  • What does it mean to change – or not change – the way you measure?
What's involved?


We're inviting community members to a 1-day workshop to engage with our collections used for measuring.

We value the histories that communities hold as an important source of knowledge. That's why we're looking for community members who are interested in sharing their perspectives on the questions and stories these objects raise.

On the day
Diverse group of people working together

10:00 - 10:30  Arrival at HSM, refreshments and welcome

10:30 - 11:15  Tour of the History of Science Museum

11:15 - 11:30  Refreshments

11:30 - 12:30  Introductions to History of Science Museum South Asia collections – Seminar Room

12:30 - 13:15  Lunch

13:15 - 14:15  Introduction to Birmingham Museums Trust South Asia collections

14:15 - 15:15  Workshop: Community Participation Research: Troubling standards

15:15 - 15:30  Refreshments

15:30 - 16:30  Workshop: pulling together a pamphlet & reflections

16:30 - 16:45 Wrap up and close

A live illustrator will capture our discussions.

Participation fee and expenses

We'll pay community collaborators attending the workshop a £120 fee to cover your participation.

We'll also compensate you for travel to and within Oxford.

And finally, we'll provide you with lunch and refreshments.

After the workshop

After the workshop, we'll circulate:

  • drawings made by the live illustrator
  • extracts from our discussions in a pamphlet, in both print and digital form.

We can send this pamphlet to anyone who is interested, including those who are not able to join on the day.

How do I sign up?


If you're interested in collaborating with us, please register your name, email address or Whatsapp number using this simple sign-up form.

Closing date for registering your interest is 3 July 2023.

We'll be in touch by 7 July 2023 to let you know if you have a place.

We look forward to hearing from you.

You can also scan the QR code to access the form


QR code for Troubling Standards - The social history of measuring in South Asia