The implication of the theme — ‘Contemporary medicine and technology as a challenge to museums’ — for this year’s biannual EAMHMS conference in Copenhagen last month is that it is difficult to exhibit the molecular level of the recent medical understanding of the body. How can we display such molecular and other tiny structures? And what metaphors and discourses do we use to describe a molecular understanding of the body?

The session “The molecular in the museum” discussed this problem. Jim Garretts, senior curator at the Thackray Museum in Leeds, suggested in his presentation that we work more closely together with researchers and research institutions, so as to allow the visitors to get an insight into practical medical science today. That way our abstract idea of things like the molecular is transformed into a more practice-based understanding of how the molecule functions in the body. Read Jim’s full abstract here.

After Jim’s presentation our own postdoc Adam Bencard put the idea of the molecular body into a larger philosophical perspective. He argued that there is a change in our understanding of the body, from a focus on genomics and the idea of life as text, towards proteomics and a focus on the materiality of being. This shift is interesting and profiting for museums because it puts the materiality of our exhibition objects, and the physical engagement with medical science that we provide, into focus. Read Adam’s full abstract here.


After these two presentations followed a lively discussion with contributions from, among others, John DurantDanny BirchallSuzanne Anker, Morten Skydsgaard, and Thomas Schnalke.

(Read more about the EAMHMS video clip project here).

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