Culture Shots is an annual series of free events run by museums and galleries around Manchester, in which cultural institutions, including Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery, brought cultural objects and art relating to medicine and wellbeing into hospitals. This year the events were run from the 18th to the 22nd July, and were a really enjoyable and important way of helping reflect on healthcare and how it affects their life in a different and more holistic way than they might in a doctor’s office.
I was volunteering with the Museum’s object handling team in the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital’s waiting room on 19th July in the Inflatable Museum (which is sadly not a bouncy castle!) talking to members of the public, mostly patient waiting for or coming out of appointments. Out objects included some of the unprocessed minerals which can be used to make important medical devices, like gypsum which can be ground down to make plaster of Paris for plaster casts. My favourite objects were the insects, which included insects which can make us ill, the female mosquitos which spread malaria, as well as the insects which can be used to make us better, the larvae of the blue bottle and the green bottle fly are the maggots used to clean wounds and prevent amputation most commonly in diabetic patients, which one of the visitors told us was being used for this purpose in the hospital. Though it is the grosser side of medicine, I think it really helps you think about how we, and our health, are a part of living nature, and we can use nature’s solutions to treat illness, mental and physical.
We were also at the Whitworth, in which we talked to lots of visitors as well as many of the other cultural institutions and healthcare charities about the museum and our objects, as well as a little Bollywood dancing!
The whole week was very enjoyable to be part of, and helped me think about how the museum’s collections can be used to communicate ideas about health and wellbeing, as well as the enjoyment people gain from interacting with objects enhancing wellbeing on its own, which is one of core principles of museums all over the world.