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CHSTM Research Seminar: 23 April 2024

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Events, Seminars | 0 comments

Tuesday 23 April 2024, 4pm
CHSTM Seminar Room: Simon 2.57 [maps and travel]
Zoom: tbc

Dr Clare Hickman, University of Newcastle

‘Sick hands, thin and white, were always slipping offerings across my windowsill, offerings for the little birdlings’: Multispecies sensory encounters within and around British tuberculosis sanatoria


The use of ‘open-air’ as a therapeutic agent in sanatoria, hospitals, and schools in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led to the development of specific material features associated with modern design. By taking a sensory history approach which intersects with architectural and medical history methodologies, this article will use patient memoirs and oral histories of British experiences to explore multispecies encounters, particularly with birds, both within and around these clinical institutions. Medical concepts which prioritised the importance of fresh air and sunshine for prevention as well as therapeutic purposes led to architectural and design interventions for hospital buildings that encouraged windows and doors to be kept open at all times, as well as the construction of balconies and terraces onto which patients could be wheeled. This lack of firm architectural boundaries caused tensions for medical staff as it led to potentially unwanted ‘germ-laden’ species, such as birds and mice, to cross the institutional threshold into the clinical ‘germ-free’ interior. In turn, and often in contradiction to the concerns of medical staff, these multispecies interactions were sometimes able to co-produce a valuable sensory experience for patients, perhaps occasionally mitigating the difficulties and challenges of the modern, clinical setting.

Take a look at the CHSTM Research Seminar Programme

Seminar Convenors: Professor Ian Burney and Dr Neil Pemberton


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