The Janus Bookmarks

In a quiet corner of the Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication, on the third floor of the Sherfield Building, lies The Janus Bookmarks. But what even are The Janus Bookmarks?


Rewind almost five months ago. Our first session of the course was in full swing and we were tasked with writing a list of words we associate with science. We began with the words familiar to us from scientific practice: experiment, process, evidence, research… But as soon as we had exhausted these words and their synonyms, we discovered new words: funding, insecurity, power, hierarchical…It became clear to us that we had delved deeper into what we felt scientific culture was like. Although initially our words appeared to be rooted within the scientific method which had been ingrained in us throughout our education, the latter half of the list appeared to describe many other aspects of society. Perhaps science isn’t so separate from other parts of our world, our teacher postulated.

With these two vocabularies in mind, we were tasked with producing a bookmark to creatively show the dual sides of science we had explored. After we handed in our bookmarks it was decided that the message they portrayed was too great not to share, and so the idea of curating a display of them was suggested. Aoife, Julia and Nur, three of my fellow students also studying for an MSc in Science Communication, volunteered to help exhibit our work.

And so The Janus Bookmarks were borne.

Why Janus?

Janus is the Roman god of beginnings, endings, transitions and duality. The traditional depiction of Janus has two faces, with one thought to be looking backwards at the past, and the other staring into the future.

               The Janus Bookmarks sign.

The idea of duality and time was highly relevant to our discussion of what science is, and fitted beautifully with our collection of bookmarks. This link is explicitly made in the display caption which reads;

What comes to mind when thinking of science?

Are the words academic? Societal?


Science is not always so simple.


Science has two sides.

These bookmarks embody both.

The Collections

Aoife, Julia and Nur divided the bookmarks up by colour, to aid the aesthetic of the display. The schemes so far have included red and green, blue and purple, and rainbow. My bookmark was featured in the double-sided selection, where the two sides of the bookmark were different. I chose to depict two versions of the solar system, with one side featuring academic words associated with science to caption the planets, and the other side featuring societal words associated with science.

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Currently the rainbow selection of bookmarks are on display, however by the end of this term all of the bookmarks will be back together for all to see. So if you have a spare ten minutes why not take a trip to the third floor of Sherfield and see them for yourself. It may even help you to view science differently as well.

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