Life and Limb (2011)

The perspectives of surgeons, physicians, and nurses are richly documented in the history of American Civil War medicine, which highlights the heroism and brutality of battlefield operations and the challenges of caring for the wounded during wartime. Yet the experiences of injured soldiers during the conflict and in the years afterwards are less well-known. Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War focuses on disabled veterans and their role as symbols of the fractured nation.

The exhibition was displayed at the National Library of Medicine from 2010-2011 and then traveled the USA (through 2019). Visit the exhibition website to view the online version and to access educational resources for high school and university-level students.

DisPLACE (from 2017)

DisPLACE (Disability in Public Life and Cultural Expression) is a digital platform for the collection and interpretation of experiences of disability, past and present, by people with disabilities in collaboration with other students, researchers, disability service organizations, and the creative industries. The platform includes:

1) a digital archive, to share historically-significant documents, images, and multimedia

2) an interpretive space, to engage with these sources to answer research questions about disability history, resulting in online exhibitions, digital documentaries, and scholarly essays, and

3) a network zone, facilitating the exchange of information and advice on potential new research questions the hub can be used to answer. This will be the first archive in the Netherlands to gather and analyse a wide range of historical sources on disabilities together, the first shared virtual environment to utilize the cultural heritage of disability and the first to make these accessible online to people with a wide variety of disabilities.

The protoype is funded by an NWO Creative Industry – KIEM Grant of €18,000 for the research project ‘Digital Disability Archive’ (1 September 2017 – 31 August 2018), awarded to Manon Parry and collaborating applicants Paul van Trigt (LUIH), Paul Bijl (KITLV), Disability Studies in Nederland, and multimedia partner Driebit.

The project is part of a larger initiative by the BIB Network (Bronnen voor inclusieve burgerschap), working to stimulate the collection and interpretation of disability history.

Human Curiosities (2016-2020)

€315,000 research project studying the social relevance of medical museums, culminating in a book and exhibition at Special Collections, University of Amsterdam. While the collections of medical museums, including human remains, are sometimes labeled as “curiosities,” the title refers instead to the idea that it is entirely human to be curious about bodies and that curators can harness that interest in socially-useful ways. However, stakeholders at medical museums disagree on the role of their institutions in contemporary society, on the capacity of audiences to understand complex or sensitive medical issues, and on the most effective exhibition strategies. This project analyzes current medical museum exhibition strategies to identify dominant narratives as well as marginalized histories, and investigate their implications for health and wellbeing.

The focus includes four areas where medical museums could make a significant impact: mental health, infectious diseases, sexuality/reproduction, and bodies of difference (addressing race and disability). This research is of direct relevance to museum practitioners, and is therefore being developed in collaboration with medical museums. Project output includes a Heritage Lab demonstrating interpretive strategies for medical heritage, an online tool for museums and their audiences, as well as an open access journal article and a book. The project will provide the first detailed analysis of exhibition strategies across a range of European medical museums, and the first in-depth study to specifically consider the role of medical museums in promoting health and wellbeing.