Friday, September 2, 2011

"Cultures of Anatomical Collections Conference," Call for Papers, Leiden University, February 15-18 2012

Image: Museum of Anatomical Waxes “Luigi Cattezneo” Bologna, Italy, part of the Anatomical Theatre Exhibition © Joanna Ebenstein
Call for papers: Cultures of Anatomical Collections International Conference, Leiden University 15-18 February 2012

The conference ‘Cultures of Anatomical Collections’ will explore anatomical preparations and collections (preparations of human material as well as wax- and other models) as important parts of our cultural heritage. This means that we treat them in a similar way as we would examine other historical artifacts stored in today’s museum. Although the history of anatomy and anatomical illustrations has been a popular topic in the history of medicine during the last decade, the history of its material remains has been somewhat neglected. And yet, in particular when taking into account recent historiographies of materiality and medical practices, it offers challenging interdisciplinary questions on the history of anatomy as a whole. Possible topics include: How do the technical details of anatomical preparations tell us about the ideas of their maker; How do ideas on beauty and perfection shape preparations; How were preparations handled and used for teaching purposes: How does the interest of non-medical audiences shape anatomical preparations? On collections as a whole we can ask: How are particular collections build up; How do decisions of curators affect the build-up of collections; How does the housing of a collection affect its outlook and popularity?

The conference has keynote lectures and the following sessions:
Keynote Lectures : Ruth Richardson and Andrew Cunningham

1. Beauty, Perfection and Materiality in Early Modern Anatomical Collections Organiser: Marieke Hendriksen ; Confirmed speaker: Anita Guerrini
This session deals with questions regarding the materiality and aesthetics of early modern anatomical preparations. So far historians of medicine have described the beauty and perfection of early modern anatomical preparations using modern (post-Kantian) understandings of aesthetics. Yet, early modern anatomical preparations must be related to early modern ideas of aesthetics, which were about beauty and perfection as well as about sense perception and experiment. Possible questions include: How does the materiality of preparations tell us more about contemporary ideals of beauty and perfection and vice versa? How can changes in theses ideals be traced in the make-up of anatomical collections? How are beauty and perfection related to natural philosophical ideas on sense perception and experiment? How do ideas of beauty and perfection relate to the morality of the early modern anatomical theatre?

2. Anatomical Collections and Scientific Medicine in the Nineteenth Century Organiser: Hieke Huistra; Confirmed speaker: Simon Chaplin
With the birth of the clinic and the introduction of laboratory methods, medicine in the nineteenth century changed profoundly. At first sight it would seem as if these changes would pose a threat to the position and function of anatomical collections in research and teaching. This was, however, not the case – institutional anatomical collections flourished in the nineteenth century. In this session we explore questions such as what were the status and function of early modern collections in the nineteenth century? How were old (in most cases early modern) preparations displayed and used in the new scientific medicine? How did the use, content, accessibility and display change during the nineteenth century? How did the new collections relate to the ‘new’ disciplines of comparative anatomy and pathology?

3. Handling Anatomical Collections
Organiser: Rina Knoeff; Confirmed speakers: Sam Alberti, Tim Huisman
This session is directed at exploring the role of the curator of the anatomical museum. Almost invisible and hardly discussed in historical discourse, he is daily busy and literally in touch with the collections. He has always been of utmost importance for the making of preparations and the general outlook of anatomical collections. Possible questions include: What are the tasks of a curator and how have they changed over time? How did/does a curator determine the outlook of a preparation and collection? How did/does he influence the focus, significant silences and boundaries of collections? How did/do his responsibilities oscillate between professional medics and the public? How did/does he merge the interests of these two groups?

4. Anatomical Collections as Public History Organiser: Rina Knoeff; Confirmed speaker: Anna Maerker
This session is about the role of the public in the making and survival of anatomical collections. Faced with recent controversies surrounding the public exhibition of human material (in particular Körperwelten) anatomical museums are faced with the questions of which exhibits should be on show, for what purposes (teaching or general interest?) and how they should be exhibited. Yet, these questions are of all times – after all, anatomical collections have almost always been publically accessible. Studying the history of anatomical collections from the public perspective can answer questions such as how are historical preparations presented in (today’s) museum and how have their public meanings transformed over time? How has public curiosity been regulated? How has the public eye influenced the presentation of a preparation?

5. Comments and Final Discussion Organisers: Rina Knoeff, Marieke Hendriksen, Hieke Huistra, Rob Zwijnenberg.

Contact: Rina Knoeff on

Deadline: Proposals for 20 mins. papers can be send to Rina Knoeff until 16 September 2011.
You can find out more about this excellent looking conference here. Thanks to Kristen Ehrenberger for sending this along!

No comments: