Leach Studio are working with Thackray Medical Museum to develop interpretation and exhibition design to support a Stage 2 Heritage Lottery Fund bid. Interpretation Planner Matt Arnold gives us an insight into his role…
“I love artefacts which tell a good story. It’s great to see so many weird and wonderful items on display when I’m out and about during my work and personal travels.
Gaining access to museum collections is a real fun part of my role here at Leach Studio. I’ve explored shelves, dusty corners and drawers from the south coast to Shetland.
So, when we were invited to explore the collection at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds to support the development of our interpretation work with them, I was very excited. With colleagues Harriet and Nick with me, we set off for our adventure.
A knowledgeable and enthusiastic curator is always a bonus in helping to bring the artefacts to life. This role at Thackray is held by Lauren, and she guided us through the corridors, shelves and drawers which contain more than 50,000 objects. Artefacts range in size from micro surgery instruments to the large disability buggy currently displayed in the museum entrance.
First, we looked equipment such as a mortuary slab and a dentistry chair covered in lush velvet, we then opened drawers to find hundreds of forceps, and condoms from the 1930s still in their original packaging. A number of prosthetic limbs from the 19th century to today prompted me to think about who might have used them.
Smaller items like glasses and hearing aids opened a window to medical advances, as well as social, cultural and fashion trends. The next drawer contained amputation saws and all manner of items designed to prod, poke and explore.
The words ‘scarificator’ and ‘blood-letting’ don’t sit easy with me, but the associated artefacts were intriguing and interesting.
Thackray cares for items associated with Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Adolf Hitler. These are stored side by side with everyday objects which reveal the equally fascinating stories about the development of medicine and healthcare.
Now we’ve just got the 20,000 books and items of ephemera held in the library to investigate…”