Alistair Kwan

MSc (Hons); MA (Hons) Melb.; MA PhD Yale

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Research Fellow


Alistair is an historian of science (multidisciplinary with history of art), working also on the history of science education. He is especially keen on physical and spatial evidence and learning artefacts: they can tell us about practices that aren't recorded well in textual records, and about people who didn't leave much of a textual record behind — or whose textual record has not been extensively collected in archives or museums. Alistair's historical research takes him often to the fundamentals of material culture theory, both for research and for teaching.

Alistair taught the Academic Leadership Initiative for doctoral candidates, and seminars and workshops for tutors, doctoral students and supervisors. He has also taught small-group pedagogy and didactics, physics, history of science, historical bibliography, bookbinding, letterpress printing.

Alistair's preferred modes of teaching involve object-based and image-based pedagogies, especially for direct engagement with evidence. He has a long history of holding university classes in museums, art galleries and rare book libraries, architectural sites, and by hands-on construction.


  • International Scholar, Society for the History of Technology
  • Junior Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
  • Research Fellow, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
  • Connecticut-Baden Württemberg Exchange Scholar
  • European Studies Fellow, Yale Center for International & Area Studies

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Kwan, A., & Butler, K. (2018). 3d-printed facsimiles as classroom primary sources: a comparative review. Agora, 53 (3), 4-15. Related URL.
  • Kwan, A. (2017). Re-defining 'evidence': Appraising for historical value as historians turn to media and materiality. Archifacts (1-2), 86-94.
  • Sword, H., Blumenstein, M., Kwan, A., Shen, L., & Trofimova, E. (2017). Seven ways of looking at a data set. Qualitative Inquiry, 24 (7), 499-508. 10.1177/1077800417729847
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Marion Blumenstein, Helen Sword, Evija Trofimova
  • Kwan, A. (2017). Interpreting tools by imagining their uses. Journal of Museum Education, 42 (1), 69-80. 10.1080/10598650.2016.1268884
  • Barton, R., & Kwan, A. M. (2016). Jock Hoe: Mathematician, linguist and historian, 1929–2016. Bulletin of the Pacific Circle, 37, 3-4.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ruth Barton
  • Reframing the PhD Project Team (2016). Stewardship: A way of analysing, integrating and providing intention to the curriculum of the Australian PhD. Reframing the PhD for Australia's future universities, 2 Canberra, Australia: The Australian Office for Learning and Teaching.
  • Kwan, A. (2016). Historic methods for capturing magnetic field images. The Physics Teacher, 54, 134-137. 10.1119/1.4942129
  • Kwan, A. M. (2016). “Do not kill guinea pig before setting up apparatus”: the kymograph's lost educational context. Teorie Vědy/Theory of Science, 38 (3), 301-335. Related URL.