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CHSTM Research Seminar: 9 April 2024

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Events, Seminars | 0 comments

Tuesday 9 April 2024, 4pm
CHSTM Seminar Room: Simon 2.57 [maps and travel]

Prof Manon Parry, University of Amsterdam & VU Amsterdam

Risky Histories, Medical Heritage, and Human Remains


As the popularity of medical museums continues to grow, historical collections previously intended for medical education and research are increasingly presented to broader audiences. Amidst a wider cultural reckoning with the colonial histories of museum collecting and exhibiting, and the objectifying medical gaze in medical-historical exhibitions, longstanding debates among museum staff and visitors about the suitability of such collections for public display have intensified. Unease across many institutions has made curators reticent to address these “difficult” histories and led to the removal of objects considered “confronting” from exhibitions (especially human remains and items involved in the classification of people as inferior or abnormal). These defensive actions have also generated significant opposition in controversies engulfing particular institutions, such as the Wellcome Collection in the UK and Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. Taking a close look at the views aired during these events, I consider how removing, repatriating, or restricting access to objects is framed as evidence of social responsibility, and how defending display is conversely interpreted as evidence of scientific hubris or institutional arrogance. Drawing on my current research project on European medical museums, I contextualize this dichotomization within the more diverse array of attitudes and activities evident among museum staff and audiences.

Take a look at the CHSTM Research Seminar Programme

Seminar Convenors: Professor Ian Burney and Dr Neil Pemberton


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