Can sensory history provide new insights into spaces of physical illness and recovery? How have cultural, individual and medical concerns historically shaped experiences of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch in hospital environments? This project will explore these questions, focusing on modern British hospitals. It will examine how emerging research on the senses fed into healthcare design and hospital life, and how patients/staff/visitors experienced and gave meaning to these design decisions. In 2017-18 the Principal Investigator (Dr Victoria Bates) will conduct research on the theory, practice and lived experience of sensory ‘design for health’ in British hospitals since 1945. During this time the project will also explore future directions with particular attention to methodological innovation, geographical scope and/or time frame, and public engagement opportunities. We will run interdisciplinary workshops (see events) for this purpose. Overall, the project will establish the ways in which a sensory approach can shed light on historical relationships between health and environment, as a basis both for discrete outputs and further funding applications.

This project is funded by the University of Bristol Research Committee Strategic Research Fund.