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Monthly Archives

October 2008

Our museum guest-book — a source for romantic encounters

By Biomedicine in museums

The thick guest-book for the Oldetopia-exhibition is filled up with visitors’ comments and we had to buy a new one.

As Bente (our outreach officer) says, an exhibit guest-book is a wonderful medium for public response — because it conveys people’s immediate reactions: their thoughtful critical remarks, their enthusiasm, and even occasional outbursts of disgust.

Here are a few selected pages from the last 12 months.

In this one, Kris tells one of our handsome, cool and knowledgeable medical student guides:

1000 thanks, TOTAL cosiness.
You have cured my fear of dentists
Hugz   Kris (born 1986)

What more can I say? Museums are not just temples of heritage, they are also arenas for the immediate expression of romantic love.

And here John proclaims that we are a really “sick museum”:


Well — we knew that, didn’t we?

Want to spend some research time in the collections of the Science Museum?

By Biomedicine in museums

More and more museums are becoming aware of the importance of offering their collections to scholars for research. If you would like to immerse yourself in Science Museum’s (London) rich collections — with over 300.000 objects relating to science, technology and medicine — you can apply for one of their new Visiting Research Fellowships (£16,000 for eight months) or Short-Term Research Fellowship (£2,000 per month for a maximum of three months), which will be awarded in 2009-2011. More info from Peter Morris, (no website info yet as far as I can see). Formalities below: Read More

Science and the public: uncertain pasts, presents and futures

By Biomedicine in museums

The 3rd Annual Science and the Public Conference (in Manchester last June) was a very enjoyable affair (see programme here). Now, the 4th annual conference has been announced — this time in Brighton, 13-14 June 2009. The theme for next year’s meeting is ‘Science and the public: uncertain pasts, presents and futures’ and here’s the (maybe at trifle too vaguely phrased for my taste) call for papers:

The relationship between science and the public has provided fruitful material for analysis from a range of academic disciplines, and an important area of policy and practice, in recent years. Studies and experience have revealed a startling complexity, past and present, in science communication, a range of channels (formal, informal, fictional) through which dialogue and debate takes place, and a wide variety of participants in these interactions. Science itself has been reconceptualised, and the complexity of science as a discourse, as practice and as a form of life raises many questions. Science has long been seen as a quest for certainty, even if that goal is unachievable, but our interactions with and examinations of science often reveal, and are characterised by, many uncertainties: what are we encountering, describing and making when we examine science in its many forms? At the same time as this critical examination of the interface between science and the public has been taking place, a dramatic proliferation in modes and amounts of public engagement with science occurred. Science museums, outreach work and edutainment for younger people have achieved new prominence while history of science and popular science texts flourish in the market. This conference will bring together academics and practitioners who have an interest in the intersection of science and non-science, be that in contemporary, past or future societies, to confront and discuss the uncertainties, and certainties, of science and the public.

Possible topics looks like a delicious smorgasboard:
•       Scientific controversies in the media
•       Experts and expertise in public
•       The representation of science in fiction
•       Public expectations of science and technology
•       Historical analysis of the relationship between science and the public
•       The role of museums, outreach and edutainment
•       Science communication in theory and practice
•       The role of news and entertainment media (including the internet)
•       The construction of interdisciplinary projects and frameworks

Not much falls outside this list, I guess — probably a good thing, because the field is so new that it is great to hear a large variety of topics.

Two seasoned practitioners in the field — Patricia Fara (Clare College, Cambridge) and Steve Fuller (Warwick) — have been engaged as invited speakers. Everybody else is supposed to send 300 word abstracts for individual papers, panel proposals or roundtable proposals to before 14 February 2009. Someone on that email address can probably also answer inquiries.

Auctioning imaging diagnostics — another step in the marketization of medicine

By Biomedicine in museums

Telemedicine has already been around for a while — especially in image-based diagnostics where specialists can, in principle, be located anywhere in the world when they interpret, say, photos of dermatological conditions or CT/MRI scanning images (and have flexible working hours and earn a lot of money).

Telemedical practices thus sustain the general trend of out-sourcing and marketization of medicine in the last decades, because the increasing number of specialists available diminish the constraints of local bottle-necks. Telemedicine is a truly globalizing technology.

In Europe, the private Telemedicine Clinic (TMC) in Barcelona, founded in 2002, has become a leading provider of large-scale image readings, serving public hospitals and local health authorites, including over 60 National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK and several Swedish hospitals, among them Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm and Lund University Hospital. Political demands for the reduction of waiting lists is one of the reasons why hospitals take this step; another reason is that small, regional hospitals, like Esbjerg Hospital in Denmark have difficulties recruiting specialists.

The American company Telerays has now gone a step forward in this out-sourcing and marketizing trend by establishing an auction-based market place for telemedical diagnostics in radiology. Hospitals and imaging centers send in orders for the interpretation of batches of images to a virtual auction room (Telerays’ website) where only accredited radiologists have access.

The job goes to the lowest bid (“Cut costs one bid at a time”, as Telerays’ webiste proclaims). The price is established solely by the hospital/imaging center and the bidding radiologist; but Telerays takes a flat 15% of the final price.

As Health Business Blog points out “Telerays could set the basis for lower priced, foreign competition to emerge”, but that there “will have to be a relaxation of regulation, payment policies and attitudes before that happens”.

(thanks to Radiologic Technology for the tip)

An art historian's concern with high-tech baby making

By Biomedicine in museums

We all know how babies can be conceived in test-tubes, that we can clone eggs in petri dishes, and that embryos can be stored in the freezer. Old-fashioned sex is increasingly substituted with artificial conception. But what does a leading bio-artist and art historian think of all this? Suzanne Anker from the School of Visual Arts, NYC, gives a seminar in Cambridge on Tuesday (HPS Dept, Free School Lane at 5pm), asking questions like:

When posed with the classic quandary, where do babies come from, will the mythology of life’s creation soon also include glassware and the bio-lab? Has the bundle-carrying stork been exiled from fairy-tales? And with the bio-printing of replacement organs and tissues on the research horizon, at what cost is this further quest for immortality?

Suzanne wrote The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age (with Dorothy Nelkin in 2004), so she’s well placed to opine on this interesting technoscientific field.

Musik fra det indre øre

By Biomedicine in museums

Fra uropførelsen af Labyrinthitis. Loftet i Medicinsk Museions auditorie med Jacob Kirkegårds højtalerinstallation

I september 2007 havde den danske lydkunstner Jacob Kirkegaard premiere på sit spektakulære værk ‘Labyrinthitis’ på Medicinsk Museion.

Værket var bestilt af Medicinsk Museion, og blev opført i auditoriet søndag den 2. september 2007. Senere har Jacob fremført ‘Labyrinthitis’ i Museum of Jurassic Technology i Culver City, September 2008.

Nu kan du købe ‘Labyrinthitis på CD fra TouchShop. Læs mere om værket på

Material worlds (Leicester, 15-17 December) — draft programme

By Biomedicine in museums

The ‘Material Worlds’ conference at the University of Leicester, 15-17 December 2008 — marking Susan Pearce’s long and distinguished contribution to the field of material culture studies, museum studies and archaeology — will take a broad look at material culture and theoretical approaches to it. Themes include how to deal with museums and heritage, the roles and values of objects, designing and making, objects in museums, representing and interpreting culture, collectors and collecting, etc. The draft program is very rich and varied, with plenty of sessions and discussion panels of interest for medical museum people.

Philosophy of history vs. museum tangibles and specifics

By Biomedicine in museums

In her short obituary of George E. Palade — who was the first to identify what was later called ribosomes (thus a shared Nobel prize in 1974) — Andrea Gawrylewski, staff writer at The Scientist, refers in passing to something that Palade wrote in his autobiographical essay:

My father had hoped I was going to study philosophy at the University, like himself, but I preferred to deal with tangibles and specifics, and – influenced by relatives much closer to my age than he was – I entered the School of Medicine of the University of Bucharest (Romania) in 1930.

Interesting opposition between philosophy and medical science as dealing with ‘tangibles’ and ‘specifics’. Wonder if this is valid for historians too? Is there an opposition between being interested in the philosophy of history and preferring to work with historical tangibles and specifics, as we do in museums?

I for my part believe it is possible to embrace both (but maybe I’m just naïve). In fact, most people I know are either philosophically minded or tangible-oriented. Does this have anything to do with personality structure? Or is it an institutional thing?

The recent history of evidence-based medicine

By Biomedicine in museums

The emergence of evidence-based medicine is one of the most interesting issues in the history of contemporary medical history. Wish I were in Stockholm on Monday 3 November when Ingemar Bohlin from the STS Section at the University of Gothenburg will speak about evidence-based decision making in a science-based society and the origin, distribution and limits of the ‘evidence movement’ in an afternoon seminar at the Nobel Museum. Ingemar will reconstruct four strands of historical development that together led to current evidence-based medicine, and describe the relations between them in order to throw light on procedures for contemporary knowledge production. Write to if you want to participate; a background text is available. More info from Paul Sjöblom,