Exhibiting health and medicine as culture

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Introduction: This paper discusses the potential role of medical museums in public engagement with health and medicine, based on the work of Medical Museion at the University of Copenhagen. Rather than asking whether cultural venues such as museums can directly improve the well-being of their visitors, we instead focus on how museums should communicate about health and medicine.
Methods: The paper describes three examples of exhibitions at Medical Museion that attempt to display medicine as culture, and draws out three of the key strategies they employ.
Results: The three key strategies are: (1) medicine is presented through historically specific material objects; (2) these objects areused to explore the processes of research and the evolution of practice; and (3) exhibitions are designed to emphasize an implied relationship between the objects’ functions and the visitor’s own body.
Conclusion: There is increasing emphasis on the need for health communication to recognize people’s multiple, lived cultures. We argue that we should also recognize that medical research and practice is itself a form of culture, and as such is multiple and historically shifting. This paper demonstrates that museums are an ideal site for doing so, contributing to public engagement with medicine that acknowledges multiplicity on both sides.
Original languageMultiple languages
JournalPublic Health Panorama
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Text in both English and Russian.

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