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Institute for Cultural Practices

Sense and Diagnosis

An exhibition at Chetham's Library, 17 July - 9 October 2015.

Students with the exhibition at Chetham's Library
Students with the exhibition at Chetham's Library.

'Sense and Diagnosis' is an exhibition curated by students from MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester, that opened to the public at Chetham's Library in Manchester. It draws on collections from the Museum of Medicine and Health (The University of Manchester) and Chetham's Library to explore the role of the senses in medical diagnosis.

The five senses are the doctor's most fundamental toolkit. Throughout history medical physicians have used their hands, eyes, ears, noses and even tongues to interact with the bodies of their patients; to assess what is happening below the skin and diagnose disease. This makes for an incredibly intimate relationship, but one that is increasingly mediated by medical technology. The stethoscope, the thermometer, the pen torch; they all serve to enhance the doctor's senses, but they also create a distance, both physically and emotionally.

Student Hannah Niblett discusses the exhibition

The project started its life as a group exhibition proposal for the Managing Collections and Exhibitions MA module. With support from the Institute for Cultural Practices, the Museum of Medicine and Health and Chetham's Library, the five students have been able to make the project happen for real.

This has included a unique performance art event 'See / Hear / Touch', which is a series of one-to-one performances exploring the relationship between the senses of sight, hearing and touch and medical diagnosis. The performances, which took place in Chetham's Library during the preview event on Thursday 16 July 2015, drew on a variety of influences, from personal experience, medical equipment to research into historical diagnosis techniques.

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