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Institute for Cultural Practices

The Medicine Cabinet

An exhibition at Chetham's Library, 12 December 2015.

illustrated medicine cabinet
The Medicine Cabinet was a one day pop-up exhibition of medical objects.

In Semester 1 2015-16, MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies students collaborated with Chetham's Library and the Museum of Medicine and Health to produce an one day pop-up exhibition of medical objects, titled The Medicine Cabinet – Unlocking Manchester's Medical History.

Students used the space imaginatively and efficiently, creating an organic movement for visitors that helped the flow and pace of visiting. The use of different types of displays and interpretive approaches (including demonstrations, performance and visitor participation) catered for different learning styles and age groups.

This initiative enabled students to put in practice what we discuss in the class and acquire invaluable real-life experience in managing a museum collection, developing a public exhibition and engaging with different audiences and stakeholders. Also the exhibition offered local audiences and visitors an opportunity to find out more about the fascinating collection of the Museum and do that in the captivating space of the Chetham's Library. About 200 people visited the exhibition and their feedback was extremely enthusiastic and positive.

Students present objects from the Museum of Medicine and Health.

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    Presentation themes

    In six groups, students developed six pop-up displays on the following themes:

    Life Drawing – The role of art in medicine

    The display intersected the disciplines of art and science to examine the artistic and anatomical value of medical art. The core theme of our collection is whether medical art can be considered an art or a science, or potentially both.

    The Laboratory

    The display examined the function of medical instruments in their laboratory context and how materials facilitate this. It offered a ‘behind the scenes’ of the 19th and 20th century production of medicines.

    Curious Cures – A journey into the world of self-treatment

    The display used objects in the collection show the development of medical remedies within the home, highlighting how people have delved into culturally diverse, experimental and controversial methods of trying to cure their ailments.

    The Pharmacy

    Using a range of learning styles, such as auditory, visual and kinaesthetic, the display aimed to engage visitors with late nineteenth century to mid-twentieth century pharmaceutical objects and practice

    Bags of Responsibility – The doctor and the house call

    By combining a range of objects found in a doctor’s bag with interactive storytelling, the display aimed to engage visitors in a personal and engaging manner with doctor’s home visit, an important aspect of medical practice throughout time.

    Community Matter(s)

    The display included objects from the Ancoats Hospital and Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary, more commonly known as Ancoats Hospital, which closed in 1989. It told the story of the people who are linked to the objects and to the building in which they were used.

    Further information