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Monthly Archives

March 2007

Online vs. physical exhibitions

By Biomedicine in museums

The Poynter Institute has just published the initial findings of a recent study of news reading behaviour using EyeTrack technology. The most interesting result was that readers are significantly more attentive and read more text when reading online than when reading newspapers. And once online readers had began to read a piece of text they stayed on until the end.

There is every reason to believe that such findings apply to exhibition texts as well. In other words, texts in online exhibitions would be more efficient in catching the attention of the visitor than texts in showcases in physical exhibitions.

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Exhibiting science in museums

By Biomedicine in museums

I went to the Nobel Museum seminar on exhibiting science in museums last Monday (26 March) where Marika Hedin from the Nobel Museum    spoke about the challenges in exhibiting the history of modern science (the experiences of science centres, problems in funding/sponsoring, relations with the scientific community, etc.).

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Who shall be the new head of biomedical history at NIH?

By Biomedicine in museums

The National Institutes of Health are ending their search for a new director of the Office of NIH History with a series of public seminars by the candidates for the position:

  • Thu 29 March: Dr. Marcia Meldrum of the University of California, Los Angeles: “Measure for Measure: James Hardy and Henry Beecher on the Problem of Pain and Analgesia, 1940-57”.
  • Tue 3 April: Dr. Terry Sharrer of the National Museum of American History: “Collecting a Revolution; Interpreting Medicine since 1950″
  • Wed 4 April: Dr. Leo Slater of the Office of NIH History: “Telling the Story of NIH: Two Episodes in Malaria Research at NIAID”
  • Thu 5 April: Dr. John Swann of the FDA History Office: “Superfluous Flesh and Desiccated Thyroid: Origins and Etiology of Obesity and Its Pharmaceutical Therapeutics”
  • Tue 10 April: Dr. Joel Howell of the University of Michigan: (title to be announced later)
  • Thu 12 April: Dr. Robert Martensen of East Carolina University: “History in NIH/ NIH in History: accomplishments, challenges & opportunities”

For more information, contact the Office of NIH History here.

Pharma spam has become more visual

By Biomedicine in museums

Fact is, when installed correctly, spam filters work for most mail programs. My own experience is that it works for 49 out of 50 mails, so I may have missed recent developments in pharma spam mail design –like this one that arrived in my inbox a few minutes ago:


Spam mail used to be pure text, but now they have apparently begun to add pics. In this case a young blonde woman with a blue stethoscopish streak around her neck that classifies her as an authoritative intern rather than a simple pleasure model. Even biomedicine on illicit commercial display makes progress!

PS: how do they get beyond my filter? Seems to be an example of what Geektronica calls “clever pharma-spam

New wonder drug for treating Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder

By Biomedicine in museums

Here’s another artist (cf. the former post on the Genpet) who creates web sites to comment on contemporary biomedicine.

Australian artist Justine Cooper has created a site for the mock drug Havidol which is “the first and only” treatment for Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder (DSACDAD).

In an interview, Cooper says that her critical acumen is not only directed against some of Big Pharma’s questionable drug production and marketing activities (including some dubious “disease” constructions), but also against the wide-spread anxiety in the consumer society of never being good, successful or beautiful enough.


Taking Havidol is not without risks: Cooper suggests it may have some serious side-effects as well, including “mood changes, muscle strain, extraordinary thinking, dermal gloss, impulsivity induced consumption, excessive salivation, hair growth, markedly delayed sexual climax, inter-species communication, taste perversion, terminal smile, and oral inflammation” (from Havidol website).

Read more about Justine Cooper and Havidol in today’s issue of The Scientist. For other recent comments on Havidol, see Technorati search here

Prenatal screening: the newest product on the medical experience economy market

By Biomedicine in museums

The 5 March issue of the Danish medical weekly (Ugeskrift for Læger) reports the results from a qualitative study of pregnant women’s choice of prenatal ultrasound scanning.

It turned out that rational risk assessment seems to be a less motivational factor than doctors had expected. Instead, women tended to get involved in the scanning procedures more for aesthetic and emotional reason — to be able to ‘see’ a screen picture of their future baby together with the father.

In other words, ultrasound scanning is turning into yet another product of the experience economy, like taking a tour to the nearest IMAX theatre.

What’s next? Swallowing a pill camera before going to dinner and letting the whole family follow the steak’s way through the intestines? (for the gastrointestinal contribution to the experience economy, see this link).

(for an earlier post and discussion of the experience economy, see this link)

Challenges of exhibiting the history of modern science

By Biomedicine in museums

Next Monday, 26 March, 4-6pm, I will attend the research seminar at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm to hear Marika Hedin speak about “Challenges of Exhibiting the History of Modern Science”. (Those who register at will receive a copy of Marika’s background paper, which btw. is also written for the conference “History and the Public” at Swansea University 12-14 April.) Commentator at the Nobel Museum seminar is Samuel Edquist from Södertörn Högskola. (Yet another attraction with the Nobel Museum Monday research seminars is the buffet afterwards; remember that you have to register to get a place at the table, though.)

Presence vs. Meaning: Making Sense and/or Sensing the Made

By Biomedicine in museums

Medical Museion is arranging a three-part symposium over three days (17-19 April, 2007) on the notion of ‘presence’.

In the last couple of years several scholars in the humanities, like Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and Eelco Runia, have contributed to our understanding of the conceptual distinction between ‘meaning’ and ‘presence’. The distinction is especially interesting for museological practices and for the understanding of the field of public engagement with health and life sciences.

Much of what has been going on in museum exhibitions in the last decades can be broadly described in terms of ‘production of meaning’, i.e., historical and cultural interpretations and contextualisations of objects, images and documents.

Against these entrenched practices some museologists now emphasise the ‘production of presence’, i.e., establishing a more direct sensual relation with objects, images and texts.

The symposium focuses on the theoretical aspects of the ‘presence’/’meaning’ distinction and its importance for the humanities and aesthetic subjects, and is divided into three independent sessions: 1) an open research seminar with Jens Hauser (Paris) on Tuesday 17 April; 2) a public lecture with Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht on Wednesday 18 April; and 3) a workshop (limited attendance) on Thursday 19 April.

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