Museums of Medicine in Past and Present: Innovating the use of medical collections as public and private academic resources.

Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, 12-14 May, 2010 We are delighted to announce that eight papers presented to the highly informative workshop on
 “Museums of Medicine in Past and Present” have now been posted, and which offer a particularly exciting insight into how science and medical museums view their roles as both social and academic resources.

The workshop set out to take stock of how history of medicine museums’ approaches to, and engagement with, their public and academic audiences had evolved in recent years. Particular attention was paid to different museums’ various public outreach programmes, the archival holdings and facilities there are, and how spaces for both to interact with each other and the museum itself.

To quote from the conference’s aims and ambitions: “The last twenty years have witnessed a remarkable and dynamic explosion in the number of newly established medical history collections, as well as the volume of visitors they attract. This reflects both changing public attitudes to, and perceptions of, the history of medicine, as well as the growing importance medical history has assumed within historical scholarship more widely. There are now over 240 such museums in Europe, and probably another 150 in the US and Canada. This rapid proliferation and expansion has also created a wide variety of novel and innovative ways for medical history museums to engage with academic audiences and the wider public alike that supplement the traditional collections boasting lancets, surgical knifes and dentist chairs, or forcefully exhibited pathological or anatomical specimens of Siam twins, cancerous tumours, or human skeletons. “ 
These themes are explored and developed with countless great examples, in the following eight podcasts we are sure you will enjoy listening to: 
  • Tim Huisman (Curator, Museum Boerhaave, Leiden) “Museum Boerhaave in Leiden: Presenting medical instruments in a history of science context” 
  • Benedek Varga (Budapest) “Medical history museums in Hungary: From Representations of Medical Profession to Public Awareness of the History of Health Issues” 
  • Almut Grüner (Chief Executive, Thackray Museum, Leeds) “Medicine at the Movies: An Innovative Approach to Public Engagement and Partnership” 
  • Anna Maerker (Senior Lecturer, Oxford Brookes University) “Anatomical Models: Museum-based Uses and Interpretations in Past, Present, and Future” 
  • Inger Wikström-Haugen (Director Emerita Medical History Museum, Gothenburg) “From undocumented objects to a public, scientific museum: About the Medical History Museum of Gothenburg, Sweden” 
  • Margit Berner (Curator, Museum of Natural History, Vienna) “Exhibiting Physical Anthropology in Vienna: About the complexity of science, collections and exhibitions” 
  • Ruth Koblizek (Department and Collections of the History of Medicine of the Medical University of Vienna) “The Josephinum” 
  • Valentin-Veron Toma (Francisc Rainer Institute of Anthropology, Romanian Academy) “Skulls, Bones and Embryos: Francis I. Rainer’s Medical and Anthropological Collections in Bucharest, 1906-1944” 
The conference was convened in collaboration between Benedek Varga (Semmelweis Museum, Budapest),  László Magyar (Semmelweis Museum, Budapest) and Marius Turda (Oxford Brookes University/ Working Group on the History of Race and Eugenics), and the podcasts presented here were funded by Oxford Brookes University’s Wellcome Trust Strategic Award.  



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