For medical museums, whose collections are typically composed of evocative historical objects, developments in contemporary biomedicine offer a twofold challenge to collecting and exhibiting. The first challenge is the nature of contemporary biomedical equipment: large, expensive, and without immediately obvious function (think fMRI scanner). Where a display of surgeons’ tools can be both instructive and chilling, a collection of grey-box scanners and robotic surgical suites is likely to offer both historians and visitors less. The second challenge is more fundamental: medical investigation and treatment now operates beyond the limits of the visible, at the level of genes and proteins, a scale which it is hard to relate to our own bodies and lived experience. Even the beautifully-limned image of an SEMmed protein can’t offer the visceral thrill of corporeal recognition that a pickled heart in a jar does...For the curious among you: The Wellcome Collection's Danny Birchall has written a very nice conference report--as excerpted above--about last month's ‘Contemporary Medical Science and Technology as a Challenge to Museums’ EAMHMS Congress in Copenhagen.
Click here to read full report on Danny's blog "Museum Cultures."
Image: Installation view of Medical Museion, the host institution in Copenhagen.