MedHums Creative Portfolio: Alice Ryrie

Our new Students Reflect on MedHums series showcases creative portfolios assembled by students on the MSc in Medical Humanities during the academic years 2013/14 and 2014/15. The journals and portfolios were part of the assessment for the semester 1 module Major Themes in Medial Humanities, led by Sarah Collins and Carsten Timmermann.

We begin with Alice Ryrie, whose artwork, journal and comments demonstrate how creative coursework can lead to fascinating new insights and a deeper understanding of themes in Medical Humanities.

Alice Ryrie, Sanguine

Alice Ryrie, Sanguine, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Choleric

Alice Ryrie, Choleric, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Melancholic

Alice Ryrie, Melancholic, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Phlegmatic

Alice Ryrie, Phlegmatic, 2014/15

Alice shared her thoughts on writing a journal for the course:

Being given the opportunity to write a journal was for all of us an exciting, yet slightly daunting task. The journal was a chance to try something a bit different and document thoughts, inspirations and creative ideas with a clear set of aims and framework to focus on.

Some of the ideas I started putting together over Christmas break were articles inspired by newspaper stories or the lives of artists and patients, and others were drawings or pieces of creative writing. At first none of them seemed to fit together, but soon subtle themes began emerging that connected some of the pieces – for example, using metaphors or imagery to create comparisons or humour between medical and non-medical subjects. This really helped to reveal what interested me and went on to inform my dissertation that year.

However, there were challenging parts to creating the journal, too… and not just the mad rush cutting and gluing in things the night before the deadline! In other University assignments I have always felt anonymous: essays are handed in with only a student number marking my identity. But now, I was being assessed not only as myself, but by submitting a piece of work which had grown very personal to me.

This was most obvious on the day we showed each other our work. The six of us sat nervously with our journals, not wanting to be the first to open the cover. However, once we started sharing our ideas, we quickly began to enjoy talking about our journals and appreciating the different styles and themes. I found this day one of the most memorable of our course. We all learned a huge amount from each other, ranging from creative ideas and personal stories to academic papers and book recommendations.

Alice’s journal contains a wide variety of topics, photographs, clippings, reflections, poems, drawings, paintings, quotes, lists, re-writings, collages, illustrations, and analysis. While the examples below are visually compelling in themselves, they are also worth reading in more detail:

Alice Ryrie, Virus, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Virus, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Louise Bourgeois, Art Therapy and the Stream of Unconsciousness, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Louise Bourgeois, Art Therapy and the Stream of Unconsciousness, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Edvard Munch - Illness & Art, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Edvard Munch – Illness & Art, 2014/15


Alice Ryrie, Facial Symmetry & Health, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Homophobia and Blood Donation, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Homophobia & Blood Donation, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, “I smoke for my mental health” – why David Hockney is fighting against anti-smoking campaigns, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Public Health Problems, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Public Health Problems, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Masectomy, Breast Cancer & Narratives, 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Mastectomy, Breast Cancer & Narratives (1), 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Mastectomy, Breast Cancer & Narratives (2), 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, Mastectomy, Breast Cancer & Narratives (2), 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, The Nightshade Alkaloids (1), 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, The Nightshade Alkaloids (1), 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, The Nightshade Alkaloids (2), 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, The Nightshade Alkaloids (2), 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, A Day in the Life of a Medical Student..., 2014/15

Alice Ryrie, A day in the life of a medical student…, 2014/15

The journal offered me a way to explore the diversity of medical humanities whilst discovering about my own interests along the way.

All artwork and images © Alice Ryrie.

Five Questions for… Wendy Gallagher

In this week’s contribution to our regular series introducing MedHumLab members, Wendy Gallagher, Arts & Health Partnership Manager at The Whitworth and Manchester Museum, talks about all things ‘museums, health and wellbeing’.

Wendy Gallagher, Arts & Health Manager at The Whitworth and Manchester Museum

Wendy Gallagher, Arts & Health Partnership Manager at The Whitworth and Manchester Museum

What does your role as Arts & Health Partnership Manager at The Whitworth and Manchester Museum entail? Can you describe what ‘a typical day at the office’ looks like for you?

My working days are always varied as I work in museum and gallery, clinical and community settings at local, regional, national and international levels.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Health & Culture partnership between Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust? What kinds of events and initiatives does it support?

The partnership began in earnest in 2008, with a regional research programme of arts and health activities called Who Cares? Museums, health and wellbeing. We have a long and successful history of working with local communities, such as users of community centres in surrounding wards, older people in residential and care homes, and adults with mental health problems. We provide activities and events for all ages from Parents to Be to Coffee, Cake & Culture: a programme for people living with dementia and their carers.

ArtMED is a collaborative programme between the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, the Faculty of Humanities, the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum. The programme involves students and professionals from medical and healthcare backgrounds visiting the museums in small groups to explore works of art and objects in relation to areas of their curriculum or professional specialisms. They also undertake object based lectures in relation to biomedical research, ethics, law and human rights. The ArtMED programme encourages the development of visual literacy for a group of students and professionals whose observational skills will be essential in their future medical and nursing careers. At a deeper level, a visit to the Museum broadens their awareness of the value of culture, enriching their understanding of the world in which we live. The visit demystifies the Museum and affirms the potential for arts and heritage to intersect with the medical world.

‘Museums and wellbeing’ seems to be a burgeoning field of engagement and research. How does your work fit within this wider context?

Arts for health programmes and initiatives are being rolled out in museums and galleries in a number of countries, with networks and partnerships developing between museums and galleries and the health care sector. As we continue to strive to improve access to our collections and provide programmes that promote wellbeing through engagement, evidence is beginning to emerge of the benefits that participation in cultural activities can have for people’s health, wellbeing and quality of life. We know that museums and art galleries are full of objects and artworks of historical, social and personal significance and have developed programmes and resources to engage a wide range of audiences who may not traditionally have visited us. In 2012 the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum were recognised by the Royal Society for Public Health with two awards for outstanding and innovative contributions to arts and health research and practice.

How would you define the term ‘medical humanities’?

I would define the medical humanities very loosely as the use of arts and humanities within the medical curriculum.

And finally, how do you relax and unwind away from the office?

I’m learning to play the guitar, and I spend a lot of my free time socialising and travelling with friends. I also like long walks with my border terrier and regular glasses of good red wine.

Five Questions for… Julie-Marie Strange

Julie-Marie Strange, next in our series introducing MedHumLab members, is Professor of British History and currently Head of History.

Julie-Marie Strange, Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865-1914, Cambridge University Press, 2015

Julie-Marie Strange, Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865-1914, Cambridge University Press, 2015

Your research and teaching interests are wide-ranging, including Victorian cultures of death and bereavement, fatherhood and attachment in late Victorian and Edwardian working-class culture, and historical representations of menstruation, puberty and the menopause. How do they fit into a medical humanities context?

The unifying theme of my research is the history of emotions which bear a close relationship with bodies, wellbeing and mental health, and of inter-personal relationships.

How would you describe the field of medical humanities from your disciplinary perspective as a historian?

As a dynamic field that invites us to historicize core questions about society, culture and individuals.

Julie-Marie Strange, Death, Grief and Poverty in Britain, 1870-1914, Cambridge University Press, 2006

Julie-Marie Strange, Death, Grief and Poverty in Britain, 1870-1914, Cambridge University Press, 2005

Where do you see the benefits of interdisciplinary research?

The fusion of ideas, methods and practices from different perspectives invites us to view things – often familiar things – through new lenses and to be surprised.

What are your expectations for MedHumLab for the future?

That a cross-fertilisation of ideas and practices will lead to fruitful but focused collaborations on research themes.

And finally, how do you relax and unwind away from the office or seminar room?

Outdoors, preferably with a horse and/or a hound.

Bodies, Technologies, Objects

Please mark your calendars for the Medical Humanities showcase

‘Bodies, Technologies, Objects’

organized by MedHumLab Manchester

Tuesday, 6 September 2016
10am – 4.30pm
Grand Hall, The Whitworth, Manchester

Plenary speaker: Dr Sam Alberti, Keeper of Science and Technology, National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh

Binaural stethoscopes, with two rubber tubes, substituted monaural ones in the early 1900s

Binaural stethoscope, Museum of Medicine and Health, Manchester

The workshop will also include an artist-led session, and  a session on ‘Teaching and Engagement’ featuring Dr Kostas Arvanitis (Centre for Museology) and Stephanie Seville (Museum of Medicine and Health).

More info to follow soon!

Five Questions for… Jane Brooks

Next in our series introducing MedHumLab members is Dr Jane Brooks, Lecturer in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, Deputy Director of the UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery and Editor of the UK Association for the History of Nursing Bulletin. She talks about her research on the history of nursing during the Second World War and the value and challenges of oral history projects.


Sister Winifred Mountford, a nursing sister with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in a tented operating theatre in the desert in the Second World War

How does your research on the history of nursing play into the field of medical humanities?

My research into the work and practices of nurses in the 2nd World War identifies them as critical players in the 2WW medical services, both in the clinical work that they undertook and their presence as women, which appears to have supported the healing process and beliefs in a homeland to secure. Nursing in many ways is the human link in the medical / technology / patient triad. The history of nursing seeks to illuminate how the place of nurses in healthcare was developed out of this postion.

How would you describe the importance of humanities in medical education and patient care?

On the BNurs at Manchester, we begin the first year by introducing the students to critical aspects and events in the history of the nursing profession. The evaluations from the students demonstrate that this enables them to situate themselves in their chosen profession and develop a more political and critical eye on the health services and their place in it. By introducing students to the history of ethical and unethical practices, they are able to begin to formulate a moral compass through the safer gaze of historical enquiry.


Sister Emily Soper, also of the Q.A.s, outside the 66th General Hospital, Assam, just before night duty

One of your preferred research methods is oral history, alongside qualitative and quantitative historical research. Can you tell us about the value of oral history for your research? Are there any challenges?

Grassroots nurses have not always been a profession of writers. Although there are a number of leaders who wrote ideas about nursing, there is little from those nurses who engaged in patient care on a daily basis. Oral history allows us to develop an understanding of their work and their attitudes towards it. The challenges are the same as with oral history in general, but with some additional ones. In my oral history project with nurses who cared for older patients in the 20th century, the limited engagement with ethical practice, the frequent dehumanisation and the lack of resources and poverty of leadership caused distress to several participants. It is therefore vital, in oral history projects that deal with potentially sensitive data, for the interviewer to be alert to these difficulties.


Jane out riding on her mare, Elsie

What are your hopes and expectations for MedHumLab for the near future?

I hope that the Lab continues to develop cross-disciplinary work. I should like to see collaborations between students of all disciplines.

And finally, how do you relax and unwind away from the office or seminar room?

I ride my horse and run with my young and completely tireless border-collie.

Culture Shots Museums and Galleries Week 2016

Culture Shots 2016 is here!

Culture Shots is a week-long series of events based in hospital environments which are run by museums and galleries.

Culture Shots 2016 is running from Monday 18th July – Friday 22nd July. Click on the link below for the complete programme…

Culture Shots 2016 Programme


Culture Shots is designed to give you the opportunity to see how culture can enhance the health and well-being of health and social care professionals as well as their patients and families.

Here is a taster of one of the programmes on offer…

Culture Shots Printing Competition with Artist in residence Alan Birch

Alan has created a series of hand coloured prints depicting later-day saints; these first appeared at the John Rylands Library in Manchester in 2015.

Inspired by the medical saints found in the Welcome Collection, the 52 prints bring saints into the 21st century. Alan’s humorous saints reflect individuals’ obsession with contemporary technology, fashion and consumerism.

As part of our +Culture Shots 2016 programme Alan will be in residence in hospitals. Staff, patients and visitors to the hospital are invited to view the later-day saint prints and to meet Alan and chat about his work.


If you want to see more of Alan’s work, click here.

Create Your Own Saint

Packs of materials will also be available and you will be invited to create your own engraving of a saint. Alan will then make you two prints from your engraving. You can either use inspiration from personal or observed obsessions and behaviour or transform an image from an earlier time.

Drop by during any of our sessions:

Thursday 26 May 9am – 12pm @ Manchester Royal Eye Hospital (Atrium)
Tuesday 21 June 10am – 1pm @ Trafford General Hospital (Main Entrance)
Monday 18 July 9am – 3pm @ Manchester Royal Eye Hospital (Atrium)
Tuesday 19 July 9am – 3pm @ Manchester Royal Infirmary (Atrium)
Wednesday 20 July 9am – 3pm @ Trafford General Hospital
Thursday 21 July 9am – 5pm @ Trafford General Hospital
Friday 22 July 10am – 3pm @ Whitworth Art Gallery (Grand Hall)
Tuesday 2 August 1pm – 4pm @ Trafford General Hospital
Thursday 4 August 10am – 1pm @ Manchester Royal Infirmary (Atrium)

A partnership between Manchester Museum, The Whitworth, Manchester Art Gallery, and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust