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Monthly Archives

January 2007

Contemporary history of poultry food poisoning

By Biomedicine in museums

David Smith and Norval Strachan at the University of Aberdeen are currently preparing a grant application for a three-year project on historical trends in poultry-related Salmonella and Campylobacter food poisoning 1980–2005. If the grant application is successful the project will begin in September 2007. The project would involve oral history interviewing, archival research, collecting and analyzing numerical data, writing papers and monograph on the subject. The two grant application submitters are interested in candidates holding a relevant PhD. The deadline for submission of the application is 1 March 2007 and interested persons should therefore respond as soon as possible to David Smith, Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine, King’s College, University of Aberdeen,

Ishkabibble 2007 in the UK

By Biomedicine in museums

This year’s bi-annual meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) takes place in Exeter, UK, 25-29 July 2007 — hosted by The Centre for Genomics in Society.


The ISHPSSB (“Ishkabibble” among friends) meetings are informal and relaxed summer meetings where a diverse crowd of people from all quarters of life science studies meet for 4-5 days. When I began to attend these meetings back in 1989 they were dominated by historians and philosophers interested in evolution (Darwinism), but over the last 15 years the programme has become much more varied. For an overview of papers relevant for the “Biomedicine on Display”-theme, see a report from the 2005 meeting in Guelph here.

All info you might ever dream of asking for can be found on the conference website: Deadline for online abstract submissions is 15 February.

Art into science into art (Dialogue #4)

By Biomedicine in museums

The current issue of Dialogue, the Leeds-based online journal for contemporary art practice, edited by Michael Corris, focuses on how to develop “a picture of artists operating in and within the fields of science and technology”.


(Antony Hall, ENKI Prototype, 2006; from Dialogue issue 4, january-april 2007)

The special issue includes an article by Charlie Gere (“The Gay-Science Museum”; inspired by Nietzsche’s essay “Die fröhliche Wissenschaft”) on the problem of how “the tendency towards ‘experimentalism’ in the arts and in society more generally … could and should be represented in museums and other institutions”, and a symposium (“Expanding the Lab: A Conversation Between Artists Working with Science”) between artists and curators about their experience of working collaboratively with scientists and scientific institutions, e.g., how to access and utilise scientific knowledge in artistic practice.

Medical chic

By Biomedicine in museums

Given all these tens of thousands of public and private medical clinics around the world that all look the same — how can one separate the functional trivia from the truly chic. Now Bill T. at Cool Hunter has found the true nugget: Singapore’s The Clinic, which doesn’t look, smell or sound (or work) like any other clinic:

Upstairs, The Clinic offers a dining experience like no other. Dine from kidney shaped surgical pans, and drink through test tubes. The avant- guard menu is second to none and oddly enough well suited to the surroundings (from Cool Hunter’s website, better resolution pic here).

Spanning over 15,000 sq ft of space, The Clinic resembles an organized maze with pill shaped rooms interlocking into one another for easy access. The Clinic has two floors. The first fulfills your entertainment requirements, with a number of bars, a dance club, and merchandise store. The entire floor is clinic inspired, that is to say ‘hospital chic’ adorned. That’s where artist Damien Hirst comes in. His pop art graces the walls of The Clinic, whilst his vision goes even further. Syringes, drips, pills and hospital whites are the order of the day in The Clinics decor. This satirical look at medical chic is both stunning and entertaining.

This merger of medical museum, restaurant and art exhibition — “Think Damien Hirst on Prozac turned gourmet, and you get the idea” — is truly inspirational. We’ve been thinking of establishing a small restaurant in the former smallpox inoculation building in the backyard, the little yellow house that now contains 700 medieval leprosy skeletons and a large assortment of pathological skeletal specimens. So maybe this is the way forward … other ideas are welcome.

The Clinic’s own website is pretty inspirational too (– and thanks to Adam for finding the Cool Hunter).

Protein neon art

By Biomedicine in museums

I don’t know what to think about the neon artwork depicting proteins related to deadly diseases displayed in the windows of the Wellcome Trust’s headquarters on Euston Road in London:

The neon art “is mesmerising passers-by in the centre of London, and acting as a bittersweet reminder of the devastation of serious medical conditions”, says the Wellcome website, and continues:

Proteins play a key part in how our bodies interact with disease. The Structural Genomics Consortium, which the Wellcome Trust part-funds, has had a crucial role in identifying the structure of some important proteins related to human disease, including cancer, HIV, obesity and malaria. Understanding the structures offers potential targets for novel drugs to treat these conditions. London design team Graphic Thought Facility have constructed a colourful and thought-provoking display depicting a number of these proteins in bright neon signs that are attracting the attention of busy onlookers.

Decorative, okey — but “mesmerising” and “thought-provoking”?

Oral history methods in the history of contemporary medicine

By Biomedicine in museums

A five-day residential course in “Oral History in the History of Medicine” will be given at the University of Manchester 26-30 March 2007. The course is intended for postgraduates and others who are interested in using oral history to explore the history of medicine and offers a mix of theoretical perspectives and practical sessions.

As well as a review of oral history in the history of medicine and its potential uses, there are workshop sessions on project design, undertaking and evaluating interviews, and analysing and writing history from oral histories. There will also be presentations on memory, ethics and copyright, and transcribing and archiving.

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CFP: 'Universities in Transition – Responsibilities for Heritage', Vienna, 19-24 August 2007

By Biomedicine in museums

University Museums and Collections (UMAC) holds its 7th international conference in Vienna, 19-24 August 2007 under the umbrella of ICOM’s general conference on the theme “Museums and Universal Heritage”.

UMAC’s subtheme — “Universities in Transition – Responsibilities for Heritage” — focuses on universities in transition effect university museums and collections and the attitudes to cultural heritage. Here’s UMAC’s call for papers:

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Understanding evidence based medicine

By Biomedicine in museums

Another highly influential buzz-phrase in contemporary medical discourse is ‘evidence based medicine’ (EBM). Many medical people believe this is a fairly recent step in the history of medical progress; historians on the other hand have questioned the novelty of the phenomenon and pointed to its long durée and that evidence based (i.e., empirical) medical practice is in principle going back all the way to classical antiquity.

Whatever the historical precedents, however, EBM is a phenomon that is bound to stay with us. But it is not that easy to find good introductions to EBM; a recent collection of links to websites of tutorials, powerpont presentations, pdf-files, etc. on the commercial New Media Medicine Blog gives an updated and potentially useful overview of the present state of the art of EBM (caveat: I haven’t gone thorugh the links to see if they all favour the company, New Media Medicine Ltd. 🙂

Letter-number icons/acronyms/phrases as goads to research action

By Biomedicine in museums

There is an interesting grey area of linguistic units somewhere between icons, acronyms, short phrases and brands that function as goads to action in the field of science, technology and medicine.

The best known and most over-exploited at the moment is probably ‘Web 2.0’, coined by O’Reilly Media to denote “perceived or proposed second generation of Internet-based services—such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies—that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users” (quoted from Wikipedia).

A similar, but so far less widely spread, buzz-phrase in the biomedical field is ‘P4 Medicine’, coined by Leroy Hood to stand for “Predictive, Preventive, Personalized and Participatory Medicine”. Hood says that the idea of participatory medicine came up in a discussion with Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (in analogy to participatory software design) — reflecting the porosity between information/communication and biomedical cultures.