More events coming up! I am very excited that ‘Senses and Modern Health/care Environments: Exploring interdisciplinary and international opportunities’ has been awarded a small grant by the Wellcome Trust (2019-2021). The first workshop will be on 27 August 2019 in Birmingham, before the EAHMH conference ‘Sense and Nonsense’. All welcome, whether attending the conference or not! This first workshop is limited neither to historians, nor to the ‘modern’ period. Sign up to the mailing list HERE if interested in this event, or the network more generally.
Design is a pressing issue in healthcare. In the face of growing critiques of current healthcare and care environments, examples of successful healthcare design from history can provide inspiration for change. Even more opportunities emerge if we consider historical examples of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ design in terms of how hospitals felt rather than only how they looked. What about the smells, sounds, foods, temperatures, air flow, and furniture in places such as hospitals, hospices, care homes, and GP surgeries? What role have they played in the making of ‘therapeutic’ spaces, or in contributing to poor design? This project will use the senses as a new way of approaching the history of health/care environments, for the benefit of historians, designers and users (including workers, visitors, and patients). It will develop international and interdisciplinary networks, which will lay the foundations for ways to improve healthcare spaces for all.
It will explore opportunities for research and funding in the sensory history of healthcare environments. It has two main aims, with associated activities to achieve these running over a two-year period (one workshop, one large conference, and three project ‘retreats’). Firstly, it will develop methodologies for an ambitious, collaborative, interdisciplinary publication on senses in the modern British hospital for the 75th anniversary of the NHS. Secondly, it will expand a small existing group of UK-based scholars working on (or near) the subject of health/care senses to become (i) more international; and (ii) more collaborative with healthcare practitioners, designers and architects. Ultimately, the project will initiate and deepen interdisciplinary and international networks, with the ultimate goal of collaborative funding applications and publications. The project will work towards improving healthcare environments for all those who use them, as well as developing new approaches for scholars of medical humanities and sensory history.
This Wellcome Trust grant emerged in part from a series of development workshops in 2018, supported by the University of Bristol Strategic Research Fund:
April 2018. Towards a Sensory History of the Modern Hospital workshop.
June 2018. Writing retreat: Towards a collaborative sensory history. The following group of ‘core collaborators’ from this retreat are taking forward plans for an interdisciplinary and collaborative publication:
- Marie Allitt is an Associate Lecturer at the University of York, UK, in the Department for English and Related Literature. She recently completed her PhD on ‘Somatic, Sensuous, and Spatial Geographies in First World War Medical Caregiving Narratives’.
- Agnes Arnold-Forster is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Wellcome Trust Investigator Award, Surgery & Emotion, and is based at the University of Roehampton. Her work explores how people working in the hospital felt about their jobs and their institutions; how those feelings altered across cultural, political, organisational, and technological change; how people related to one another at work (including those members of the hospital workforce left out of traditional histories of healthcare such as laundry workers, receptionists, and laboratory technicians); and how the emotional landscape of the hospital has been represented in popular culture.
- Harriet Barratt: with a background in arts management, communications and bid-writing, Harriet is completing an AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Sussex on the role and representation of medical objects in literature, psychoanalysis and material culture. She is interested in the lived experience of the material environments of healthcare, and how these bodily and sensory processes are individually and societally conceptualised. She is a member of the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Onward Arts Group, and in 2019-20 will be a Research Officer on the project ART/DATA/HEALTH at the University of Brighton, which seeks to improve health literacy and digital skills through the use of data science and art practice.
- Emma Cheatle is Senior Lecturer in Architecture at University of Sheffield. She is interested in Spatial Medical Humanities and researches historic and modern hospital buildings and settings through the politics of their use and occupation. She is particularly interested in marginalised users such as maintenance workers, and makes creative critical analyses through materialities such as smell, dust, light and air.
- Clare Hickman is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Chester with an interest in the inter-relationship between landscape and health. Having published extensively on the history of healthcare gardens in Britain, she is now developing new strands of research on the role nature has played in the sensory history of hospitals and how a consideration of the multisensory nature of landscapes can aid inclusivity in both design and use.
June-July 2019. Visiting Scholarship at the Centre for Sensory Studies, Concordia University. Supported by the University of Bristol International Strategic Fund.
Thanks also to the University of Bristol ‘senses’ cluster for support in developing ideas for this project, particularly an event in January 2019.