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


Five Questions for… Cordelia Warr

In the second interview for our Meet the MedHumLab Members series, Dr Cordelia Warr, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Studies and currently Head of Subject, tells us about her research on wounds in the Middle Ages and her love of campanology (church bell-ringing).

Cordelia and colleagues ringing the bells of St Oswald's Parish Church in Oswestry, Shropshire

Cordelia and fellow campanologists ringing the bells of St Oswald’s Parish Church in Oswestry, Shropshire

How do your research and teaching interests play into the field of medical humanities?

Cordelia Warr and Anne Kirkham (eds), Wounds in the Middle Ages, Ashgate, 2014

Cordelia Warr and Anne Kirkham (eds), Wounds in the Middle Ages, Ashgate, 2014

For a long time, I’ve been interested in miraculous wounds in the period from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, and particularly in holy men and women who were alleged to have received stigmata, miraculous wounds associated with those Christ received during the passion. If you’re going to think about miraculous wounds then the next thing is to think about what makes them different to non-miraculous wounds and this led me to an exploration of depictions of wounds and intentional wounding, for example during surgical operations. I’m interested in how images are used to convey information related to medical conditions and medical intervention, and what sort of information is considered important or appropriate. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to work with Elizabeth Toon and Sarah Collins on the MSc course in Medical Humanities and benefit from the input of students on that course who have previously trained in science-based disciplines. Seeing how students from humanities and science disciplines respond to historical images of wounds and surgery has helped to shape some of the questions I’ve been asking in my research.

How would you describe the term ‘medical humanities’ from your disciplinary perspective as an art historian?

As an art historian, the term ‘medical humanities’ is one which prompts me to look at images relating to medical issues from viewpoints outside those which privilege the acquisition of up-to-date medical knowledge and ask questions about the perceived purpose of images or the way in which knowledge is disseminated through visual material. For example, what do images of so-called monstrous births tell us about how people in the sixteenth century dealt with physical abnormalities? What does the depiction of the patient tell us about the way in which patients and medical professionals interacted in the early modern period? How do text and image interact? Visual images are incredibly complex and fascinating repositories of information – and not always the information you are expecting to find.

Plate 3 from Gaspare Tagliacozzi's De Curtorum Chirurgia, 1597

Plate 3 from Gaspare Tagliacozzi’s De Curtorum Chirurgia, 1597

Where do you see the potential of an interdisciplinary, cross-faculty network such as MedHumLab? And are there any challenges?

MedHumLab gives academics and practitioners from across the University the opportunity to learn from one another in a supportive environment. The great advantage of a network like MedHumLab is that it can spark exciting new research. The launch event in November 2015 in the Whitworth was inspirational because there were participants from so many different backgrounds talking about their work and their interests and coming up with new ideas. The challenge is to maintain that energizing diversity whilst facilitating cross-faculty work.

You have recently been awarded, with Carsten Timmermann, a University of Manchester Research Institute Pump Priming grant to develop the activities of the network and fund a series of events. Where could MedHumLab be headed in the future?

The sky’s the limit! The next event on Bodies, Objects, Technologies will be held at the Whitworth on 6 September and our plenary speaker will be Dr Sam Alberti, Keeper of Science and Technology, National Museums, Scotland. We hope that these events will help bring together people across the University and that, with the support of the University Pump Priming funding, MedHumLab will foster great interdisciplinary research which will have real impact.

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

Cordelia bell-ringing in Oswestry

Cordelia bell-ringing in Oswestry

I am a keen church bell-ringer (campanologist) and that takes up most of my weekends. I’ve been ringing since I was eleven years old. It’s been a great way to meet new people as I moved around a lot while I was studying and during my first years in academic posts. Bell-ringers are very friendly people and always welcome a fellow enthusiast. There are normally lots of social events. Bell-ringing is good exercise but with added ‘brain work’ built in. You really have to concentrate to make sure that the methods (not tunes!) sound right. In the last couple of years I’ve started to do more conducting and I really enjoy working on that. You can’t think about anything else while you’re conducting a method so you completely forget the stresses of the week.

Five Questions for… Carsten Timmermann

We are kicking off our blog series Meet the MedHumLab Members with co-founder Dr Carsten Timmermann, Senior Lecturer in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and passionate cyclist in his spare time. Questions by Marion Endt-Jones.

Carsten is a member of UMBUG, the University of Manchester's Bicycle Users' Group

Carsten is a member of UMBUG, the University of Manchester’s Bicycle Users’ Group

You co-founded MedHumLab with Dr Elizabeth Toon in 2015. Can you tell us a bit more about your reasons for initiating a medical humanities research network in Manchester?

At the roots of this network was our interdisciplinary MSc course in Medical Humanities, developed and launched by Elizabeth and Sarah Collins in 2012. Sarah had been introduced to us by a colleague in the medical school, and we realized quickly that our interests overlapped. Sarah runs the Consultation Skills Learning Centre at the Manchester Medical School. She has found that medical students are often keen on the arts and would like to see more humanities teaching included in their curriculum, so she organizes a series of successful music, literature and arts events with performances by students.

When we put together the MSc course, we discovered that a number of colleagues across campus were interested in matters of health and medicine: in history, literature, the social sciences, or as explored in the visual arts or music. Many of them now contribute to the MSc, which is truly interdisciplinary and quite unusual. This is not always easy in a University designed around traditional faculties and disciplines. These colleagues were the original members of the network, and we’re hoping to reach out to others – possibly with a view to future joint projects. It’s not easy to launch projects across faculty boundaries, and an important goal of the network is to find ways of facilitating this for our field.

The actual trigger, however, was an email from Tim Harrison, the Creative Director of Sick! Festival. He was planning this spring’s Sick! Lab event, was looking for people to talk to in Manchester, and had come across our course website by chance. There must be more straight-forward ways of creating visibility for this exciting, interdisciplinary field of inquiry, Elizabeth and I thought, and started planning the launch of this network. The pump priming grant we’ve been awarded by the University of Manchester Research Institute helps immensely, of course.

How do your own research interests play into the field of medical humanities?

I’m a historian of medicine, and I feel that history is absolutely fundamental to all work in the medical humanities. I believe, for example, that you cannot say anything meaningful about the ways in which a novel or a painting engages with illness if you don’t understand the historical contexts of its production, or those that informed its reception. On the other hand, paintings and novels can be great sources for historians, and my interest in this network partly derives from a desire to find better ways of incorporating such sources in my historical work. Also, I started my career as a social science and humanities scholar with a Joint MA in History and Social Anthropology of Science, Technology and Medicine (my first degree was in Biochemistry). While my PhD project was very much social history, I find myself more and more attracted to anthropological approaches to health, sickness and medicine. My selfish hope is that the network will make it easier for me to pursue such interests.

Carsten Timmermann, A History of Lung Cancer: The Recalcitrant Disease, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014

Carsten Timmermann, A History of Lung Cancer: The Recalcitrant Disease, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014

How would you explain what medical humanities are to a layperson?

This is tricky. There are good reasons for the vagueness of the definitions in the literature, and medical humanities mean different things to different people. But I guess most of it comes down to engaging with illness experiences through art or studying the institutions dealing with illness through humanities and social science methods. The ideal, to me, are interdisciplinary collaborations between artists and historians, literary scholars and musicians, or anthropologists and museum specialists – and that’s where I hope this network can help. It brings together people who take all sorts of scholarly and artistic approaches to questions of health and medicine.

What’s your vision for MedHumLab for the next few months (and in the long run)?

My personal hope is that we turn this network into a foundation for productive conversations, which ultimately lead to joint projects. I don’t know how others feel about this, but to me working solely with colleagues in my own discipline can occasionally get a bit stale. Interdisciplinarity can be challenging, but much of the time it’s refreshing.

We are planning a couple of showcase events in late summer and early autumn that we hope will bring people together around topics of shared interest: one will be on Bodies, Objects, Technologies (featuring, for example, our Museum of Medicine and Health), and the second will deal with Narratives, Lives, Disruptions. We’re also working on a medical humanities interest directory, which will make networking much easier in the future.

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

I have two young boys, eight and five years old, and most weekends are dedicated to them: on Friday evenings we meet with friends in the pub, on Saturdays we go swimming, and on Sundays we often undertake little family cycling trips (the five-year old rides on the stoker seat of a tandem). Ask me again in a few years: the empty nest syndrome may force me to take up hobbies. But I also quite enjoy the rare moments when I can simply stare out of the window, let my mind wander, and do absolutely nothing.