Jan Eric Olsén – Associate Professor

My work at Medical Museion

I’m an Associate Professor at Medical Museion interested in the visual culture of medicine. My current research project, however, concerns the history of blindness and it’s intricate relation to sight, the realms of touch and sound and the objects used to render the world perceptible to the blind. Drawing on Medical Museion’s historical collection of artifacts designed for the visually impaired and used in teaching and rehabilitation, I will approach the history of blindness, ca. 1860 –1950, from a material culture perspective. The project, which is supported by the Velux Foundation, involves a PhD student as well.

At Museion I was previously part of the Biomedicine on Display project (2005 – 2009) where I looked at contemporary forms of medical visualization, simulation and surveillance. I was also co-curator of the exhibition “Split & Splice: fragments from the age of biomedicine” (Medical Museion, June 2009 –April 2010), which received the Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits 2010.

My background

I’m trained as a historian of Ideas and Science at the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University. My PhD study, Liksom ett par nya ögon: Frithiof Holmgren och det problematiska synsinnet, Lubbert Das, 2004, dealt with vision studies, measuring instruments and the embodied eye in Nineteenth Century experimental medicine. Along these lines, I’ve also written about the history of nutritional science and the introduction of sensitive galvanometers in electro-biological research. At Lund University, I’ve given lectures, coordinated courses and supervised student’s papers in the History of Ideas and Science.

Selected publications

– “The body voyage as visual representation and art performance”, Nuncius. Journal of the material and visual history of science, Vol. 26, Issue: Ways of Voyaging through the Human Body, 2011, 222-241.

– “Näringsfysiologi: kroppens ekonomi”, Medicinen blir till vetenskap. Karolinska Institutet under två århundraden, Karin Johannisson, Roger Qvarsell & Ingemar Nilsson (red.), Stockholm; Karolinska Academic Press, 2010, 200-237.

– “Meet your inside: endoscopic visualizations in contemporary culture”, Academic Quarter, Vol. 1, September 2010, Issue: Meat, 22-31.

– “The portable clinic: keeping track of the healthy body”, Performance Research, Vol. 14, No. 4, 2009, Issue: Transplantations, 53-57.

– “Observing the others, watching over oneself: themes of medical surveillance in post-panoptic society“(co-author Susanne Bauer), Surveillance & Society, Vol. 6, No. 2: Health, Medicine and Surveillance in the 21st Century, 2009, 116-127.

– “Surgical vision and digital culture”, Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader, Edwards, E. and Bhaumik, K. (eds) Berg, 2009, 427-432.

– “Art and the ‘Entangled Bank’: Colour and Beauty out of the ‘War of Nature'” (co-author Diana Donald), Endless FormsCharles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts, Yale University Press, 2009, 101-117.



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Phone: +45 35323802E-mail: My posts on this site