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Biomedicine in museums

Why are hospitals associated with the colour green?

Ever wondered why hospitals are associated with the colour green? Green surgery scrubs, green operating theatres, green-painted instruments, and so on and so forth.

A temporary exhibition called ‘Artifact Spotlight: The Colour of Medicine’ at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa shows how the colour green conquered the hospital world during the 20th century:

Green was a popular choice. Surgeons first added “spinach-leaf green” to their clothing in 1914 to reduce glare from traditional hospital whites. In the 1930s, hospital decorators used green to influence patient moods. It carried associations with nature, growth and recovery. Tiled surgical suites, patient rooms, clothing and instruments all went green in the post World War Two era.

The exhibition curator, David Pantalony, is currently exploring the history of the colour green in medical instruments in the period 1950 to 1975 and in medicine in general. Look out for his forthcoming article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this summer.

Here’s an another image of the exhibition:

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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