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Biomedicine in museums

Projektbeskrivelse for "Danish Biomedicine, 1955-2005"

By January 9, 2005No Comments

Jeg lægger for god ordens skyld ud projektbeskrivelsen til “Danish Biomedicine, 1955 – 2005: Integrating medical museology and the historiography of recent biomedicine”

Danish Biomedicine, 1955 – 2005: Integrating medical museology and the historiography of recent biomedicine
(projektbeskrivelse dateret august 2004)

1. Problems in contemporary medical museums
This 3-year research project has grown out of the current plans for the modernisation and re-conceptualisation of the Medical History Museum in Copenhagen as a new Medical Museion (Söderqvist and Rasmussen 2003, Söderqvist 2004a). This new institutional concept is meant to address two related problems in the contemporary medical museum world: the absence of recent biomedicine in medical museum collections and exhibitions, and the unproductive division of work between medical historiography and medical museology.

1.1 The place of recent biomedicine in medical museums
The first problem is that recent biomedicine has not yet found a place in today’s medical museums. This is all the more surprising because biomedicine has emerged as a most important formative factor in contemporary society and culture over the last 50 years. The discovery of the structure of DNA and the subsequent rise of molecular biology radically changed medical research agendas in the 1960s and 1970s, and is now having a strong impact on diagnostics and therapeutics (Nielsen et al. 2003). The interaction between the pharmaceutical industry and the steadily growing popular demands for health care is also turning biomedicine into a major factor of the global competitive economy.

Medical museums have always reflected the status of the medical art of their time, from 16th-17th century rarity cabinets via anatomical collections to 20th century cultural history exhibitions (Findlen 1994, Arnold 1996, Mordhorst 2003). But only few museums have taken the conspicuous growth of recent biomedicine into account in their exhibitions, and hardly any museum has made organised efforts to document the recent biomedical heritage. It is a great challenge, both logistically and intellectually, to rethink traditional collection and exhibition strategies in the light of the scientific and clinical development of the last 50 years (Söderqvist 2004b).

1.2. The historiographical foundation of medical museology
A second, and related, problem to be addressed by the new museum concept is the lack of cooperation between public and scholarly reflection about medicine, especially medical historiography, on the one hand, and medical museum practice on the other.

The strong presence of biomedicine in the contemporary world has given rise to much public debate in the last decades. Opinions are divided: some view biomedicine as a key to the future of humankind, others as a threat to basic human values (Frank 2004). Much political hope is attached to post-genomic research and to entirely new medical technologies, like stem cell therapy. At the same time different kinds of criticism have been voiced, for example against the political priorities to fund biomedicine rather than public health research. The Human Genome Project and the prospects of an ubiquitous genomic/post-genomic medical science and technology has resulted in a large scholarly literature within the fields of medical ethics, science policy studies and social studies of science (e.g. Nelkin and Lindee 1995, Kaback 2001, Wright 2001).

Historical studies constitute a significant part of this meta-biomedical literature. Studies of the basic biomedical sciences have mainly focused on molecular biology (e.g. Wright 1994, Morange 1998, Thackray 1998) and immunology (Söderqvist and Stillwell 1999). Studies of recent clinical developments are more diversified, for example, studies of the emergence of new clinical disciplines, like psychopharmacology (e.g. Healy 2002), of laboratory and clinical technological innovations (e.g. Jeffrey 2001), new therapies (e.g. Lerner 2001, Meienschein 2003) and drugs (e.g. Goodman and Walsh 2001), and commissioned histories of pharmaceutical companies (e.g. Jones 2001), just to mention a few (the literature on new diseases, like aids, is booming). A number of social scientific studies have also contributed to the historical understanding of the contemporary biomedical system (e.g. Good 1994, Lock, Young and Cambrosio 2000).

Historical scholarship plays a significant role in the formation of the public understanding of recent science and medicine (Gregory and Miller 2000), but this rapidly growing corpus on recent biomedicine has not yet had much influence on medical museum practices. The reason for this is that medical historical research and teaching usually takes place in academic departments where it is informed by theoretical approaches (e.g. social constructivism) that emphasize the study (through textual sources) of the construction of medical phenomena in their social and cultural context, but have no place for material artefacts or museological concerns (cf. Cooter and Pickstone 2000). Collections and exhibitions, on the other hand, is the prerogative of museums, where curators typically focus on the collection and preservation of straightforwardly ‘real’ artefacts (human remains, instruments, etc.) and the spectacular display of such items, but rarely take the results of cutting-edge medical historical research into account. This entrenched division of work hampers the development of both museums and academic historiography. It is a major challenge for any medical historical institution, whether academic department or museum, to overcome this unproductive division of work.

1.3. An integrated historiographical and museological approach to recent biomedicine
These two problems in today’s medical museums have prompted the new approach to medical museums taken in this project.

The Medical Museion will concentrate its activities on recent biomedicine. Acquisition of new collections (material artefacts, photographs, and archives) will focus on Danish biomedicine in the period 1955-2005, and a substantial part of the new exhibition area will be used on topics in recent biomedicine (Rasmussen, Söderqvist and Laursen 2003); similarly teaching activities for medical students will focus on the recent past.

Special emphasis will be laid on integrating contemporary scholarship in the historiography of recent science and biomedicine (including medical biography) with medical museum practices. The general goal of this new medical museum concept is thus to strengthen the historiographical level of collection and exhibition activities on the one hand, and to allow museum experiences to inform the choice of historical research topics and historical practice on the other.

From an international vantage point, this is a unique approach. Historians have only lately begun to investigate aspects of the material history of recent biomedicine, and a few museums are beginning to revise their collection and exhibition strategies with an eye to recent biomedicine. But no institution has yet undertaken the task to develop an integrated historical and museological approach to recent biomedicine. The Medical Museion is meant to be an international exemplar for how historians and curators could handle the recent biomedical past in mutually supportive practices and within a common theoretical framework.

2. The historiographical-museological research problem
What constitutes such a common theoretical framework? It is well-known among historians in general, and historians of science and medicine in particular, that all historical representations are dependent on the theoretical and methodological preconceptions that, implicitly or explicitly, guide historical practice (e.g. Tosh 2000, Golinski 1998, Jordanova 2000). However, such questions are rarely, if ever, asked by medical museum curators. Neither have they traditionally been asked by historians of recent science, including biomedicine, probably because much of recent history is investigated by the historical actors themselves (e.g. Brent 1997) and because recent science is seen as a sort of ‘last-frontier’ (Thackray 1992, Holmes 1997), where the mapping of the new and unexplored area has higher priority than theoretical and methodological considerations.

Lately, however, problems concerning the theory and methodology of the historiography of recent science and biomedicine have been taken up by a few scholars (e.g. Keating and Cambrosio 2003). Likewise two recent conferences (Söderqvist 1997, Doel and Söderqvist in press) have systematically treated the subject, including problems such as the use of participant observation (Löwy 1997) and oral-historical methods (Chadarevian 1997, Hoddeson in press), the problems in upholding professional legitimacy (Hughes 1997), questions of ethics and responsibility (Forman 1997), the use of photographic records (Doel and Hanson in press) and using the internet for writing history of science (Hessenbruch in press), etc.

This research area will be brought a step further by addressing the specific theoretical and methodological problems raised by the Medical Museion concept. The arguments for, and the practical consequences of, different models for the representation of recent biomedicine in an integrated historiographical-museological setting will be investigated in order to answer the question: Which kinds of historical narratives does the new museum concept warrant?

The problem of representation is long-standing in the historical sciences (e.g. White 1976, History and Theory Beiheft 1987). There are several ways to formulate the representational problem in a combined historiographical-museological context. Traditional representational thinking, for example, puts the ‘normal’, ‘general’, ‘standard’, etc. aspects of history in focus. Many museums are more or less implicitly guided by this kind of representational models in their acquisition and exhibition practicies (Crimp 1995, Crane 2000, Preziosi 2003); similarly medical museums, who use artefacts to convey general knowledge about the role of medicine in culture and history, collect and exhibit items that are supposedly ‘typical’ and ‘representative’ for a historical period, a medical specialty, etc.

Another representational model grows out of the idea that museums have evocative (Tosh 2000, Ch. 6) rather than explanatory functions. This idea, which museologists share with authors of popular history books and some popular biographies, has grown out of a general experience, viz., that museum exhibitions work better if one avoids general, abstract and structural notions and focuses instead on concrete and tangible topics — for example, the material, visual and auditory aspects of history, the personal, emotional and subjective traits of historical actors, local and marginal details, curious artefacts and anecdotal stories, the remarkable errors rather than the plain successes, etc.

This common communicative wisdom has led many historians to characterise evocative approaches to the past as a ‘lower’ form of historiography and a vulgarisation of an allegedly ‘scientific’ historical discourse. There are really no epistemological arguments to support such an opinion, however. One may as well claim that material, emotional, local, anecdotal, etc. aspects of history involve other kinds of knowledge. For example, it has been pointed out that the anecdote is not a low and vulgar form of storytelling, but simply a different kind of historical knowledge (Gallagher and Greenblatt, 2001, Bencard 2004); similarly a focus on the personal dimension in the history of medicine does not make a historical presentation less stringent, but only involves a shift of focus from the abstract scientific achievements to their subjective and emotional preconditions (Söderqvist 2003a).

In other words, a focus on the ‘personal’, ‘subjective’, ‘emotional’, ‘curious’, ‘anecdotal’, ‘unique’, ‘remarkable’, ‘material’, ‘visual’, ‘auditory’, etc. aspects of history are not necessarily driven by didactic needs only — but may also be the result of a conscious choice of an independent historiographical framework. Hayden White’s (1973) seminal point that linguistic protocols and literary tropes fundamentally shape the writing of history is pertinent also in a museum context; similarly artistic representations and dramaturgical concepts can be used to forge museum narratives (Mordhorst and Nielsen 2000); another example is Crane’s (2000) suggestion that the Early Modern category of ‘the curious object’ provides a model of representation in postmodernity as well.

Yet another possible conceptual contribution to a new combined theoretical framework is the use of biography and autobiography, genres which emphasize the individual and his/her ‘uniqueness’. The earlier skeptical attitude among historians of medicine against letting individuals, their personalities and idiosyncracies into historiography has changed considerably in the last decade (Jordanova 1993, Duffin in press, Linker in press) and medical biography is now becoming more closely integrated into medical historiography (Gradmann 2003, Söderqvist 2004c). Yet biographical narratives have so far played little role in museological thinking and next to none for the collection and exhibition of recent biomedicine.

The aim of this project is thus to use these and similar contributions to the discussion about modes of representations of the past to work out a comprehensive framework for the integration of a historiographical and museological approach to recent biomedicine. Different representational categories, such as ‘the typical’ vs. ‘the anecdotal’ and ‘the curious’, ‘the objective’ vs. the ‘subjective’, and ‘the social actor’ vs. ‘the unique personality‘ will be contrasted in the comparison between different empirical sub-projects.

3. Empirical sub-projects
The theoretical work will be grounded in a number of concrete historical case-studies (sub-projects). These will provide empirical foundation for the theoretical framework and, in addition, contribute to the collection of artefacts, pictures, documents and oral narratives to the Medical Museion for use in the planned exhibitions.

The following possible sub-projects have been worked out by prospective applicants to positions within the framework of the project (for details, see Appendix 1):

1. Representing individuality, personality and character in recent biomedicine (50% 3-year professor in history of medicine; principal investigator)
2. Biomedicine in museological practice: representing the unique and local (50% 3-year assistant professor in medical museology)
3. Danish transplantation surgery: organs, technologies and values (2-year postdoc)
4. Danish biomedical personae: an autobiographical approach to recent biomedicine (2-year postdoc)
5. The isotope tracer method: interdisciplinary interactions (2-year postdoc)
6. The biotechnological body (2-year post-doc)
7. The meaning of animals and machines in biomedical research (3-year phd)
8. A survey of archival sources (25% senior research fellow in 2 years)
9. Preservation of easily degradable biomedical artefacts (20% senior research fellow in 3 years)
10. Representations of the psychopharmacological breakthrough in Denmark, 1950-1980 (3-year phd)
11. An annotated bibliography of secondary sources (6 months assistant research professor)

Sub-projects 1 and 2 are both financed from the ordinary budget of the University of Copenhagen.
Sub-projects 3-9 are sought to be financed through this application. Note that these are suggestions only, i.e., they have been worked out by prospective applicants, but to ensure the best possible outcome, the final sub-projects will not be determined in advance, but all phd-, postdoc-, and senior research fellow positions will be announced. The applicants will be selected according to standard evaluation criteria for research positions at the University of Copenhagen, viz:
• the applicant’s earlier research qualifications
• the quality and originality of the application
• the extent to which the applicant’s proposal contributes to the theoretical and methodological development of the project
• the extent to which the applicant’s proposal fits the time frame and organisational structure of the project
Sub-project 10 is presently sought to be financed from a number of public and private foundations.
Sub-project 11 is already financed by a private foundation.

4. Organisation of the project
4.1 The research environment
The project will be embedded in the Medical Museion, a combined research and museum department at the Institute of Public Health, University Copenhagen.

The department has two permanent academic positions (a professorship in the history of medicine, and an assistant professorship in medical museology to be filled in October 2004), four temporary scholars (one research assistant professor and three guest senior scholars), and six technical-administrative positions for the museum functions. It has a strong international research profile in the history of recent biomedicine and medical biography, and a strong national research profile in general history of medicine and medical museology. Six phd-students have been trained since 2000. In addition the Medical Museion has one of the largest and richest medical history collections (including archive and library) in Europe.

4.2 Integration between sub-projects and museum work
To emphasise the integration between the historical and museological dimensions of the programme, all members of the research staff shall spend up to 20% of their time with the collection and documentation of artefacts, pictures, documents and narratives or work to prepare the new permanent exhibition. All such curatorial work shall be closely related to the specific research work, and will supervised by the permanent technical-administrative museum staff at the Medical Museion.

The sub-projects will thus generate a large amount of material artefacts, documents, pictures, and narratives from Danish biomedical institutions which will be added to the routine collecting activities of the Medical Museion. The permanent museum staff will handle the reception, curation and registration of all incoming material according to usual historical and museological criteria and the representational principles discussed above. The permanent staff also has the final responsibility for the utilisation of the collected material in the new permanent exhibition.

4.3 Conferences
Two conferences are planned:
• A European workshop on “Documenting biomedicine” for curators and historians of biomedicine from the collaborating institutions and the European university museum network (Universeum) in the early summer of 2006.
• An international conference on “The biomedical challenge to medical museums” will be organised in the summer of 2007.

4.4 Phd-course and summer school
Two graduate training activities are planned:
• A phd-course in “Documenting biomedicine” will be organised in connection with the European workshop in 2006.
• A one-week graduate summer school, “Integrating medical museology and the historiography of recent biomedicine”, will be held in connection with the international conference in 2007. The summer school will be open to graduate students world-wide and with leading scholars in medical historiography and medical museology on the faculty.

4.5 Seminars and weblog
The backbone of the project will be a weekly internal seminar where the theoretical problems encountered in the sub-projects will be discussed, and paper drafts, etc. will be criticised. It will be supplemented by a journal club and a series of publicly announced monthly external seminars with invited guests.

Working papers, internal discussions, notes on literature, contacts with other research groups, etc. will be continuously updated on a group weblog, a medium which is more interactive than a conventional webpage (Rodzilla 2002).

5. International collaboration
The international conference in 2007 will be planned together with our major international collaboration partner, the “20th century history of medicine” group at Center for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester (John Pickstone et al.).

The European workshop is planned together with Liba Taub, Director at the Whipple Museum of History of Science, University of Cambridge.

The Medical Museion is participating in an exchange training programme for historians and curators in the history of science and medicine which is planned by the Universeum network (Klaus Staubermann, University of Utrecht).

We will continue our present informal collaboration with the Exhibition Department, Wellcome Trust, London (Ken Arnold; about exhibitions of contemporary medicine); with the Science Museum, London (Robert Bud, Tim Boone; about strategies for the collection of recent bioscience); with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London (about medical biography); and with the NIH History Office–Stetten Museum of Medical Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda (Victoria Harden; about problems in the museology of recent biomedicine.

Finally we will be able to draw on our long-term and well-established contacts with several European and North-American departments of history of science, medical history and medical museums, for the seminar series and for the recruitment of faculty for the 2007 summer school.

6. Planned outcomes
6.1 Research training
The project will function as a training site for one assistant professor, four postdocs, and two phd’s. There are about 30 permanent jobs in medical history in the Nordic countries and in Germany, and about ¾ of these will be announced in the next 5-10 years in connection with the generational shift, so there will be a shortage of trained medical historians and medical curators in the Nordic-German speaking part of Europe. The assistant professor will have good chances to be employed in an associate professorship at the Medical Museion. The six junior scholars will have a competetive advantage for tenure-track jobs compared to many humanities scholars because they will get both practical museum experience and research experience from a collaborative humanities-biomedicine environment.

6.2. Publications
The following publication output is expected:
• a series of research papers exploring the theoretical problems in the proposed combined historiographical-museological approach to recent biomedicine, to be published in international peer-reviewed journals for the history of science/medicine and museology journals.
• a series of research papers from the sub-projects to be published in international peer-reviewed journals for the history of science/medicine journals.
• two collections of papers summarizing the European workshop in 2006 and the international conference in 2007, respectively.
• two PhD-dissertations (partly in article form, partly in monograph form).
• the current results of the project will be put on the weblog (cf. 4.4 above).

6.3 Collections
The project will result in major new collections of artefacts, images, documents and oral narratives from Danish biomedical research institutions and hospitals clinics and will thus contribute to the up-date of one of Europe’s largest medical history collections.

6.4 Exhibition prospect
The project will also result in a research-based, detailed plan for the integration of recent biomedicine into the new permanent exhibitions at the Medical Museion that are planned to be opened in the spring of 2008. This plan will be published separately in monograph form.

7. Timetable
The project is planned to run for three years, january 2005 – dec. 2007:

autumn 2004 announcements for phd- and postdoc positions
2005-2006 2 postdoc projects
2006-2007 2 postdoc projects
2005-2007 2 phd projects
summer 2006 European workshop “Documenting recent biomedicine”
summer 2006 European phd-course
summer 2007 international conference “The biomedical challenge to museology”
summer 2007 summer school
2006-2007 work on plan for the integration of biomedicine into the permanent exhibitions
autumn 2007 concluding seminar for project participants, funding agencies and foreign collaborators

1. Sub-projects
2. References
3. Budget
4. Principal investigator’s CV
5. Principal investigator’s list of publications

Danish Biomedicine, 1955 – 2005 Appendix 1


Sub-projects 1 and 2 are both financed from the ordinary budget of the University of Copenhagen.

1. Representing individuality, personality and character in recent biomedicine (3-year, principal investigator)
A substantial part of the history of recent biomedicine is written in biographical form. Some 300 biographies of biomedical scientist and clinicians active in the post-1945 period have been published in the major world languages in the last three decades. Some biographies portray the life and work of scientific elite, like James D. Watson (McElheny 2003), Francis Crick (Olby in prep.) and Niels Jerne (Söderqvist 2003a), but the majority describe less well-known figures. The genre is extremely varied both with respect to authorial intentions and readers’ responses – most biographies are written for commemorative purposes, many have historical ambitions, others yet have literary or ethical aims (Söderqvist in press).
The purpose of this sub-project is to investigate the generic properties (Fowler 1982) of the international biographical literature about biomedical scientists and clinicians. The study will focus particularly on how traits like individuality, personality and character are represented both in text and illustrations, and to develop further the claim (Söderqvist 2003b) that knowledge about the relation between the unique and subjective aspects of a life-course and the ensuing objective scientific achievements is an underestimated yet powerful cognitive resource for the public understanding of science and medicine. The results of the study will be actively incorporated in the new public exhibitions to underscore the idea that biomedicine is also the result of strong engagement and a passion for research (Wolpert and Richards 1988).

2. Biomedicine in museological practice: representing the unique and local (3-year assistant professor)
The emergence of biomedical science and its impact on today’s diagnostical and clinical practice is hardly visible in medical museum collections and exhibitions. This is not necessarily the effect of a conservative attitude to scientific and medical developments from the side of museum curators only, but can also be understood as the result of lack of conceptual means to confront a fundamental museological problem: wheras museums usually deal in concrete and locally derived artefacts, biomedicine is perceived as an abstract and global phenomenon which is difficult to translate into museum collection and exhibition practice (Söderqvist 2004b).
In contrast to a traditional philosophy of science view of science as an abstract, detached and global phenomenon, contemporary historiography of science and the STS-tradition has developed a view of science as a concrete, localized, and contingent practical phenomenon. The aim of this sub-project is to draw on this scholarly tradition to develop an alternative medical exhibition concept. The theoretical work will be closely integrated with the build-up of new exhibitions.

Sub-projects 3-9 have been worked out by prospective appplicants as possible sub-projects. To secure the best applicants, the final sub-projects will not be determined in advance, but positions will be announced (see further main text).

3. Danish transplantation surgery: organs, technologies and values (2-year postdoc)
Organ tranplantation is generally accepted as a major achievement in postwar medicine. Since the early 1960’s, organ transplantation has gone from experimental therapy to a standard, if still highly specialized, cure against a range of life-threatening conditions (Risse 1999, Ch. 11). In Denmark, it has attracted much public interest since the first kidney transplantation in Århus in 1964, and has become a source of professional prestige among surgeons. The extent to which hospitals have been able to offer this kind of therapy to patients has been largely determined by the availability of donor organs. Obstacles in this respect include immunological barriers (tissue types), logistics, and methods of organ preservation, but also legislation, ethics, and ideas about bodily integrity. The history of organ transplantation thus involves both material and technical aspects that are suited for museums exhibitions, and the kind of ethical and political debates that historians of recent science and medicine have focused on. Previous studies of the history of organ transplantation internationally (e.g. Hakim and Papalois 2003, Tilney 2003) and in Denmark (Birkeland 1997, Bundegaard 1999) have not reflected on the relationship between these different aspects of the subject. The aim of this sub-project is to study and present the history of Danish transplantation surgery in a way that gives attention to formal technical and scientific developments as well as to the importance of personal skill, policy, and ethics, and in a way that is suitable for representation in an exhibition.

4. Danish biomedical personae: An autobiographical approach to recent biomedicine (2-year postdoc)
Autobiography is the classical genre of subjective historical experience. The genre is not unproblematic (self-portraits are usually read as personal myths with literary, rather than historical, value), but if properly guided and crafted, it has great potential both as a lens into biomedical microworlds (university departments, industrial laboratories, hospital wards, etc) (Lepore 2001), and as a component of exhibitions that focus on the subjective dimension of high-technology; cf. how biographical marginalia is used in the British Museum exhibition “Cradle to Grave” ( …). There exists only few biomedical autobiographies, including collections of autobiographical essays; the paradigmatic one being James D. Watson’s (1968, cf. Watson 2000). One of the aims of this sub-project is therefore to elicit and edit a number of autobiographical stories, including video-recordings, of individual Danish biomedical actors (scientists, clinicians, nurses, administrators, patients, etc.). The narratives are expected to range from heavily edited autobiographical interviews (“as-written-by …”) to unedited texts. All narrators will be instructed to focus on issues bearing on their experience of and relations to biomedical technology. Another selection criterion is how the stories can fit into a an exhibition context.

5. The isotope tracer method: interdisciplinary interactions (2-year postdoc)
Recent research has drawn attention to the interconnectedness and reciprocal production of science, technology and society (Pickering 1995). Within the history of biomedicine, focus has mainly been on molecular biology, while the development that has seen the techniques and status of physics integrated into modern biomedicine has been left relatively unexplored. This is unfortunate, because the physics-biomedicine interface provides one of the most powerful illustrations of the role played by instruments, techniques and people moving between disciplines. This sub-project will use the tracer method as a case study for the changing relations between physics and biomedicine. The tracer method has changed from physico-biological technique, over industrialisation, automation, and integration with molecular biology, to clinical technology, an evolution that maps the development of biomedicine as a whole. Trajectories of people, techniques and machinery between laboratories, industry and hospitals will be followed, and the museological component of the sub-project will question the transformation of technologies as they move: for example, how did the cyclotron change when it moved from its pride of place in the Niels Bohr Institute to its role as auxiliary technology in Rigshospitalet?

6. The biotechnological body (2-year post-doc)
Biotechnology has changed and continues to change the ways we perceive, conceptualise and live the human body. A number of new body-technologies (e.g. stem cell therapy, cosmetic surgery and transplantation surgery, or even medically assisted body-building) have brought into crisis the 18th century “naturalistic” interpretation of the body as a stable biological experience; although still alive today in scientific and medical discourse, this belief is increasingly being eroded in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as in the public sphere. The body is no longer subject to the constraints and limitations that once characterised its existence; we now have the means to exert an unprecedented degree of control over our bodies.
Yet we are also living in an age which has thrown into radical doubt preconceived notions of the body and how to control it. As science facilitates greater degrees of intervention into the body, it destabilises our knowledge of what bodies are, and runs ahead of our ability to make moral judgement about how far science should be allowed to reconstruct the body. There is a growing literature, as well as an increasing public concern, about these developments and the politics and ethics of biotechnological control of the body is hotly debated (Leder 1992, Andrews and Nelkin 1998, Kimbrell 1997).
The sub-project will use new notions of historiographical practice (e.g. Gallagher and Greenblatt 2001) to examine the new understandings of the body that are created through biotechnological developments, and attempt to capture the materiality and individuality of these developments as a social and cultural phenomenon; furthermore it will engage with the many cultural attitudes towards and representations of biotechnology, as well as more scientific debates, leaning towards a privileging of bodily objects, anecdotes about bodies, the unique and strange body, etc. This will also allow for the sub-project to tie in with the concerns of exhibition practices, by focusing on the very material stuff involved in the attempts to represent the construction of the biotechnological body.

7. The meaning of animals and machines in biomedical research (3-year phd)
Animal experiments play a central role in biomedical research, yet the relationship between scientists and animals is a neglected topic in the historiography and social science studies of biomedicine, and almost non-existent in medical museology. The issue of animal experiments is by and large left to the internal discussion in the bio-scientific literature and to the public opinion, e.g. in debates about bioethics. There is a lack of empirical knowledge of which role experimental animals play in ‘the life in the lab’ and in the production of biomedical knowledge, particularly the role of ‘the animal’ vs. ‘the machine’.
This sub-project will examine how biomedical researchers and laboratory technicians use, handle, deal with, circulate, think of, talk about, talk with, feel for, identify with, and attribute meaning to experimental animals. In what ways does the interaction with laboratory animals differ from, or resemble, the interaction with important ‘things’/objects (e.g. machines)? Which are the implications of the rise of animal ethics for biomedical research? For example, how do bioethics and the increased national and international regulation of animal experimentation affect the way researchers and technicians think about ‘their’ animals? The study also raises a number of problems concerning the collection of experimental animals and their display (dead or alive?) in medical museum exhibitions.

8. A survey of archival sources (25% senior research fellow in 2 years)
The project is highly dependent on access to archival sources to Danish biomedicine. Almost nothing is known, however, about the archival situation with respect to contemporary Danish biomedicine. Existing collections in the archival institutions (including iconographic archives) will be surveyed. The status of collections remaining in situ (in hospitals, research laboratories, private practice and private companies) will be evaluated, and a set of guidelines for institutions will be formulated in order to prevent the destruction of the most interesting parts of the documentary heritage. The sub-project will also evaluate the use of existing archives for exhibition purposes. The survey will be made by a skilled historian with experience of work in archival institutions.

9. Preservation of easily degradable biomedical artefacts (20% senior research fellow in 3 years)
The project as a whole will generate a large number of material items with different needs for preservation. The development of biomedicine goes hand in hand with the implementation of new complex synthetic materials (plastics, composite materials, gels, etc.) which present a major challenge to preservation in collections and maintenance of exhibition specimens. The goal of the sub-project is to make a survey of the relevant material science literature in order to define the optimal conditions for the preservation of artefacts and to develop methods for chemical stabilisation and physical restauration of easily degradable materials. The work will be done by an academically trained conservator.

Sub-project 10 is presently sought to be financed from a number of public and private foundations:

10. Representations of the psychopharmacological breakthrough in Denmark, 1950-1980 (3-year phd)
Patient records are increasingly used as a source in medical historiography to get an insight into therapeutical daily practices (e.g. Warner 1986, Riha 1955). So far, however, this kind of material has not been used for studies of recent biomedicine. The aim of this sub-project is to investigate how patient records can be used to follow the breakthrough in psychofarmacological therapy at Sct. Hans Hospital in Roskilde, Denmark in the 1950s through 1970s.
Before the 1950s there was almost no medical treatment in psychiatry; in 1952 chlorpromazin was introduced against schizophrenia in France and three years later 5 mill. patients world-wide had been treated with this new antipsychotic drug. The representation in patient records of the psychopharmacological breakthrough will be contrasted with representations in research papers in psychiatric journals, in records from scientific meetings, and in the public debate about the use and misuse of antipsychotic drugs in the major Danish newspapers. This study will also consider the special problems involved in collection and exhibition of psychopharmacology because it involves less concrete artefacts.

Sub-project 11 is already financed by Assens Fond:

11. An annotated bibliography of secondary sources (½ year assistant research professor)
The project is dependent on knowledge about the literature about the history of Danish biomedicine. Unfortunately, the secondary literature on Danish biomedicine is largely unretrievable by means of existing (electronic or manual) bibliographical databases. We have therefore begun a systematic survey of the literature. The resulting annotated bibliography will comprise both published literature and unpublished reports and will be published separately in the spring of 2005.

Danish Biomedicine, 1955 – 2005 Appendix 2


Andrews L, Nelkin D: Whose body is it anyway: disputes over body tissue in a biotechnology age, Lancet, 351:53-57, 1998.
Arnold K: Time heals: making history in medical museums, in: Kavanagh G, ed.: Making histories in museums. London: Leicester University Press, 1996, 15-29.
Bencard A: Kroppen og anekdoten, Årsskrift for Medicinsk Museion, 1: 19-27, 2004.
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Thomas Söderqvist

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