Skip to main content
Monthly Archives

May 2013

Hybrid Psychiatry Room (beta version) in Medical Museion

By Biomedicine in museums

A couple of months ago we closed our psychiatry gallery on the 2nd floor in the museum’s Academy Building. Instead we have created a smaller room — a hybrid between exhibition, open collection, and study room/inspiration venue on the ground floor — which we call The Psychiatry Room

psyk feat eng

The planning for The Psychiatry Room began half a year ago when we realised we had to move the library, and that the best place to put the books was — right, the psychiatry gallery. Good for the books but bad for the psychiatry exhibit, which was only six years old.

We didn’t want to remove psychiatry from the museum altogether, however. Mental illness is a hot topic and our visitors love the history of psychiatry. We also had the ambition do some museological experiments. For example, we have been talking about open storage — to make much larger parts of our collections accessible for visitors — for almost a decade now. And I, for one, have long been toying with the idea of creating an acquisition room as a way of showing how medical heritage is created and inspire visitors to bring in stuff.

open storage

Storage racks in Medical Museion’s new hybrid Psychiatry Room

As a result of these considerations we came up with the idea of a hybrid museum room — a public space in the museum that combines several functions in one:

First, it is an open storage room, where you can see all the objects and images in our collections relating to psychiatry, including some archival records from the Danish psychiatry.

The acquisition storage rack to the left of the door

The acquisition storage rack to the left of the door

Second, it is an acquisition room, where we will exhibit all newly collected artefacts from today’s psychiatry.

So far we only have one single item in the new psychiatric artefacts acquisition storage rack

So far we only have one single item in the new psychiatric artefacts acquisition storage rack

We are starting out with a single storage rack, because we don’t expect a flood of artefacts to begin with — but as we acquire more things, we may have to add another rack (and hopefully a whole new room …).

Third, we see it as an inspiration room, where researchers, students , museum curator and members of the public are invited to come and look at objects and images and get inspiration to ideas for research, teaching assignments, exhibitions, art works, etc.

meeting roomIt can also be used as a seminar room, where students, psychiatric staff, officers and members of patient associations, etc. can meet over lunch or a cup of coffee and discuss the past, present and future state of psychiatry — with the stored artefacts and images as a backdrop.

gut bacteria articles

The meeting table in the room is placed close to a wall that is dedicated to possible future directions of psychiatry. In the next of couple of months we will use the white boards to ask questions about the newly discovered association of mental disorders with the gut microbiome. Can this exciting basic research findings be turned into new future psychiatric treatment methods?

The people behind the room are senior curator Niels Christian Vilstrup-Møller (curator) together with student assistants Mads Stender and Anders Stein Knudsen; conservator Nanna Gerdes (conservation work, Twitter documentation); web curator Daniel Noesgaard (metabolism wall); assistant professor Adam Bencard (metabolism wall); cand.mag. Peter Meedom (research); cand.mag.stud. Astrid Mo (web); and myself (idea and conceptual development).

Here are a few images from the opening today (taken from Nanna Gerdes’s twitterstream, @NaGerdes):






Verdensklasse, verdensklasse, verdensklasse …

By Biomedicine in museums

Jeg troede den danske forskningsverden efterhånden var blevet godt og grundigt vaccineret mod at tale om forskning og uddannelse i “verdensklasse”?

Ok, man kan have en dårlig dag indimellem. Være lidt uopmærksom, så ordet “verdensklasse” alligevel sniger sig ind i forskningsansøgningen eller strategitalen. Bagefter får man så lidt dårlig smag i munden. Før alle ved jo, at at det er hype. Og så skammer man sig lidt, og så går livet videre.

Men idag faldt jeg over et tilfælde af ren og skær manglende vaccination. Region Hovedstadens lille pjece DIR Danmarks Internationale Region, som er blevet uddelt vidt og bredt i forbindelse med dir-dagene den 23.-25. maj, indholder noget af den værste “verdensklasse”-retorik jeg har set til dags dato.

Allerede på de første to sider kan vi læse om at “Region Hovedstaden er … en internationalt førende metropol” (fangede I den, London-boere?), hvor der “drives forskning og hospitaler i verdensklassse”. Formålet med dir-dagenes sundhedstema, er at give et konkret indblik i, hvordan der “hver dag arbejdes med forskning og uddannelse på internationalt niveau i hovedstadsregionen”.

På næste side bliver vi så præsenteret for “hospitalsvæsen og folkesundhed i international verdensklasse”. Og på næste side igen får vi at vide at Rigshospitalet er i “international særklasse” — medens Bispebjerg må nøjes med at være i “verdensklasse, når det kommer til idrætsforskning”.

Til gengæld er hele hovedstadsregionen i “verdensklasse, når det gælder talenter og videnskab”, og for sikkerheds skyld bliver læseren fem linjer længere ned mindet om “den verdensklasseforskning, som foregår hver dag på regionens universiteter”.

Og dette bare på de første seks sider i en 16-siders piece i 2/3 A4-format med mange billeder og store overskrifter. På hjemmesiden drukner “verdensklassen” lidt i billederne, så det er mindre slemt der. Men i pjecen er det slemt, rigtigt slemt.

Jeg tror ikke det er tale om en dårlig dag og lidt uopmærksomhed. Jeg tror det handler om at ordet “verdensklasse” efterhånden er blevet så systematisk misbrugt, at pjecens forfattere er blevet tonedøve.

(tak til for brug af billedet)

Is Yammer really an appropriate communication tool for universities?

By Biomedicine in museums

Yammer.tesnHave you heard about Yammer? If not, you are not alone. Many people, who are otherwise familiar with social media like Facebook and Twitter, haven’t.

The reason for the relative obscurity of this social network service, which was launched in 2008 and acquired by Microsoft in 2012, is probably that it is designed for communication within organisations. Users can join a Yammer network only if they have an email address from the organisation’s domain. In that respect, Yammer differs from almost all other social media. Yammer works inside organisations, not in the public domain.

Its relative obscurity shouldn’t be taken as a sign of weakness, however. Described as a “Facebook for business”, Yammer has become a success in the corporate world; it is said to penetrate 85% of the Fortune 500 business, and sales are increasing rapidly. For good reasons — it is actually a pretty well-designed tool and probably well worth the price-tag of $1.2 billion for Microsoft that can now integrate it into its other products and help business customers strengthen their internal communication and culture.

Yammer is also spreading to universities around the world (see examples here). For example, here at the University of Copenhagen, Yammer has recently been introduced as a networking tool for the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences — and other faculties may follow suit.

But while Yammer may be good for business development it is not necessarily good for universities. This has everything to do with what kind of an organisation a university is supposed to be, and what role its staff and faculty members are thought to have in relation to the university versus to the outside world.

Bok MarketplaceYammer is probably good for universities to the extent that they define themselves as corporate organisations. Which they increasingly do. As former Harvard University President Derek Bok pointed out a decade ago in Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education (Princeton University Press, 2004), the notion of universities as private enterprises has spread throughout the entire university world.

That universities are in the marketplace means not only that they focus on the interaction with the corporate world (commercialisation). It also means that they begin to behave as if they too were companies competing with each other and other knowledge institutions on the global market (corporatisation).

The consequences of this increasing corporatisation of universities is all too well known: it means that students are viewed as customers, that professors and others members of faculty are redefined as ’employees’, and that the results of research and teaching activities are measured in quantifiable productivity units.

Corporatisation also has consequences for the way universities think about communication. Twenty years ago, hardly any university in the world thought about branding itself like business corporations. Now most universities use considerable amounts of money on branding and they strengthen their communication and business relations departments to become more competitive.

I think this is the context in which the implementation of Yammer in universities has to be seen. Designed as a tool for enterprise social networking (its official name is actually ‘Yammer: The Enterprise Social Network’), might help build a stronger internal university organisation. But since it is explicitly designed not to involve actors outside the organisation, it will not enhance interaction and flow of information and knowledge between universities, or between universities and the public. On the contrary, the more we use tools like Yammer, the less time we will spend on outer-directed communication.

And this is, in my view, highly problematic for a university. Because by operating behind closed doors (you cannot find Yammer conversations through search machines), and by prioritising intra-corporate communication over peer-to-peer and public communication, closed enterprise networks in universities are working against one of the most celebrated norm sets for good scientific conduct (scientific ethos), formulated by the American sociologist Robert K. Merton.

MertonThe Mertonian norm set includes four basic rules for scientific conduct, viz., communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism (the ‘cudos’). Merton’s point was that science and scholarship can only thrive if universities and their researchers and scholars operate in full openness, share their knowledge with all interested colleagues, collaborate on a global scale, and criticize each others work in the public sphere. Science and academic scholarship is about collaborating and sharing, not about keeping information restricted to the own organisation.

So even though Yammer and similar closed corporate social network tools may be useful for communicating experiences about the administrative work in universities, they are not particularly appropriate for academic interaction and the promotion of a scientific culture. Yammer’s focus on closed communication at the expense of universal peer-to-peer and public communication is in direct opposition to the Mertonian norm set — which universities otherwise use to celebrate as a fundamental ethos for responsible conduct of research.

In contrast, most other social media are designed as platforms for communal and universal communication, and not least for organised skepticism. And therefore I think academics are better advised to embrace such platforms to create peer-to-peer bonds across universities and research institutions and engage with the public concerns about science and its technological implications.

Yammer is a nicely designed and easy-to-use web tool, but there are good reasons to question its implementation university settings. I suggest researchers and scholars take an organised skeptical attitude to Yammer — unless we want to accelerate the development of the corporate university further.


(image credit:

PS: Another argument against corporate networking tools in academic settings, which my colleague Louise Whiteley has pointed out to me in a conversation, is that many PhDs and postdocs (actually the majority of the research staff in universities these days) are employed temporarily and expect they should be able to take professional communication with them when they move to another institution. So unlike a business, where your project-related communication belong to the company, in universities communication is part of work that you have ownership over, and so you are unlikely to want to situate intellectual discussions on such a platform.

The Data Body on the Dissection Table — a joint Leonardo/Olats and Medical Museion event

By Biomedicine in museums

It’s less than four weeks left to yet another event here at Medical Museion — ‘The Data Body on the Dissection Table’ — organised by Annick Bureaud from Leonardo/Olats together with our own Louise Whiteley.

The event takes place in Medical Museion’s unique late 18th century anatomical lecture theatre in the old Royal Academy of Surgeons in Copenhagen in Tuesday 4 June, 6.30 — 9 pm.


Dissection reveals what lies beneath the skin, but for a brief moment in time, and for a privileged few. Depictions, models, and preservations have long been used to share what dissection uncovers; from ancient anatomical drawings to today’s virtual 3D anatomies.


In the 18th Century skinned “écorché” figures and anatomical waxes were constructed to reveal systems of interlocking bones, balanced pairs of muscles, and delicately entangled traceries of nerves and blood vessels. The Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt, and the écorché The Horse Rider by Honoré Fragonard are famous examples at the border between medicine, science and art.


Contemporary medical sciences reveal ever more about the complex systems of the human body – but at a barely perceptible level. The (medical) human body today is understood, tested, and treated as a huge system of data, including complex interactions between our genetic material, our environment, and our host of microbial companions.


How do we grab hold of this data? How do we make sense of it and communicate it to others? How do contemporary artists and designers give our ‘data body’ material form through images, sound, and touch? What kind of tools are complex networks science proposing, and what kind of body do they reveal?


The Data Body on the Dissection Table brings together scientists, artists, philosophers, and designers to explore these questions, through roundtable presentations and audience discussion. The event takes place in Medical Museion’s auditorium – the Danish Royal Academy of Surgeons’ former anatomical theater.

Speakers at the roundtable include

  • Albert-László Barabási, Distinguished Professor and Director of Northeastern University Center for Complex Network Research, Boston
  • François-Joseph Lapointe, Professor at the Biological Sciences Department, University of Montreal
  • Annamaria Carusi, Associate Professor in Philosophy of Medical Science and Technology, University of Copenhagen
  • Jamie Allen, Artist and Head of Research, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

The event is co-organised by Leonardo/Olats and Medical Museion under the EU Studiolab framework, and in conjunction with the Leonardo Day “Arts, Humanities and Complex Networks” satellite event for NetSci 2103.

Attendance is free within the seat limits, refreshments provided, but for logistical reasons it would be nice of you would like to register in advance at 

And again — the event is taking place on Tuesday 4 June at 6:30 – 9 pm

Venue: Medical Museion, Bredgade 62, DK-1260 Copenhagen K

Relevant web sites:

Guest lectures at Medical Museion: Massimiano Bucchi, Morgan Meyer and Bruno Strasser

By Biomedicine in museums

Just want to mention three upcoming Thursday afternoon lectures here at Medical Museion  (abstracts will be up on our seminar page soonish):

* Thursday 16 May, 3pm: Massimiano Bucchi (Trento) on “Newton’s Chicken. Science in The Kitchen and its Metaphors” (abstract here for circulation).

* Thursday 30 May, 3pm: Morgan Meyer (Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Paris) on labs in museums.

* Thursday 20 June, 3pm: Bruno Strasser (Science Education and History of Science, Geneva).

Please share with colleagues.

Collecting and displaying healthcare ICT — are medical museums ready for the future?

By Biomedicine in museums

Here are some topics that medical museums need to get involved with if we want to engage with contemporary healthcare:

* Ambient Assisted Living for Elderly Care
* Ambient Intelligence and Intelligent Service Systems
* Analysis and Evaluation of Healthcare Systems
* Clinical Data and Knowledge Management
* Cloud Computing for Healthcare
* Collaboration Technologies for Healthcare
* Context-aware Applications for Patient Monitoring and Care
* Data mining Techniques and Data Warehouses in Healthcare
* Data Visualization
* Decision Support Systems in Healthcare
* Drug Information Systems
* Design and Development Methodologies for Healthcare Systems
* Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies in Healthcare
* Digital Hospitals
* E-health & m-health
* Electronic Health Records (EHR) & Personal Health Records (PHR)
* Evidence Based Medicine (EBM)
* Healthgrids
* Health Portals
* Information and Knowledge Processing in Healthcare Environments
* Middleware Support for Smart Homes and Intelligent Applications
* Privacy, Confidentiality and Security Issues in Healthcare Systems
* Related Real World Experimentations and Case Studies in Healthcare
* RFID Solutions for Healthcare
* Smart Homes and Home Care Intelligent Environments
* Telemedicine and Health Telematics
* Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing in Healthcare
* Usability & Socio Technical studies
* User Interface Design for Healthcare Applications
* Virtual and Augmented Reality in Healthcare
* Virtual Environments for Healthcare

Daunting, right? Or exciting — depending on the museum’s ambitions.

Why do medical museums need to get involved? The list of topics is copied from the call for papers for the 3rd International Conference on Current and Future Trends of Information and Communication Technologies in Healthcare, a meeting series that brings together “multi-disciplinary researchers, professionals and practitioners from both academia and industry”, who are engaged in different facets of healthcare and information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The list contains some of the most important developments and future trends of ICT in healthcare, medical research, public health and pharma. This is a significant part of the future of technoscience-driven medicine and health care.

And therefore it is a momentous challenge for medical museums. These are among the things museums need to collect, curate, exhibit and engage their public with if they don’t want to be reduced to insignificant repositories of the far past.

The next question is whether museums are intellectually prepared to deal with such future trends of healthcare and medical science. Will our traditional humanistic skills be sufficient? Is it enough to hire ICT specialists as curators? Or do we also need to rethink the way we do humanities research? I’ll get back these questions in a later post.

(featured image from here)