An exhibition on the history of health over centuries

An exhibition called Health: Looking at Life from Cradle to Grave has just opened in the Health Sciences Library in the Worsley Building.

Funded by the university’s Wellcome ISSF grant, it explores birth, illness and (anti-)aging from the fifteenth century to the twentieth century. The exhibition is in the final leg of a tour around West Yorkshire, visiting six public libraries and two hospitals since February 2016. It will  be on campus until early February.

Previous venues included Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield; Leeds Central Library; Hemsworth Public Library; Dewsbury Road Library, Hunslet; and St James’s Hospital (Bexley Wing).

The exhibition tells the story of how we have experienced health and medicine over the centuries. From cradle to grave our personal experiences help us make sense of illness. Health is also influenced by warfare, government policies, scientific research, industrialization, gender relations and changing ideas about humans and the environment.

The exhibition includes original artefacts, fun interactives and lots of interesting pictures and ideas, including about Yorkshire people and local institutions such as our hospitals. There is a map for a medical history trail around Leeds. The aim is to show how attitudes towards aging, mental health, lifestyle, hygiene and childbirth have changed.

The exhibition has had an excellent response from members of the public and librarians alike, reaching potentially thousands of people who access libraries and hospitals over a year.

‘To have a thought provoking and professionally curated exhibit with objects and interactives allows us to  inspire our customers in a new way and to reach audiences such as schools and older people, who may not have otherwise travelled to visit a cultural destination such as museum or country house, to enjoy heritage within their local community’ (librarian, Wakefield).

‘I found the display fascinating. The pregnancy/birth and mental health sections especially interesting’ (anonymous member of the public, Leeds).

The project is led by Iona McCleery, and involves researchers in the School of History (Alex Bamji, Laura King, Jessica Meyer, Iona McCleery – and Rachael Gillibrand, PhD student in the Institute for Medieval Studies) and in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science (Mike Finn and Jamie Stark). Please join in the debate about the history of health on twitter #healththroughtime.