First Impressions, guest blog by Amanda Bailey

Hi,

My name is Amanda Bailey and I’m studying English Literature at the University of Worcester.  I’m in my third year and I’m at George Marshall Medical Museum (GMMM) on a work placement. Being unsure of what direction I want to head in when I finish my degree I thought some work experience was good idea. So here I am!

The museum houses a large and interesting collection charting the development of medicine and the medical profession. It is small and modern in design with glass cases on both sides which house the many interesting objects. The size and layout make the museum experience really intimate which is great for its subject matter. The exhibits are so close that all the detail can be seen, some of these will make your eyes water (the obstetrics cabinet) and some will make you gasp (again the obstetrics cabinet).

Take a look in the orthopaedics cabinet.  The items in this display are intriguing, they look so dated compared to the modern prosthetics in use today, yet these replacements were still being used in the 1990s. Having previously worked on the trauma and orthopaedics ward and witnessing knee replacement surgery I find the display fascinating. It’s a reminder of how fast the medical profession progresses. 

The dentistry cabinet holds many delights for those of us who need to satisfy our macabre curiosity. Items and historical facts that give us a frisson of excitement when we look and read about them: dental keys, ‘used to prise teeth from their sockets’ and the all-important dentists’ drill. Yet more macabre, look closely and see teeth removed from bodies on the battlefield, set into metal frames to create dentures ready for their new wealthy owners!

I came to the museum to get an of idea of working in the heritage sector, I love museums, art galleries and all things cultural and I thought work experience in this area would be enjoyable and beneficial. However, it’s not just about enjoying myself, it turns out I can’t just wander around the displays, smelling herbs and potions in the apothecary and trying on the nursing costumes, I had to do some work as well! Luckily this was also a lot of fun. So far, I have devised and presented ‘Happiness in a Box’ – a well-being and mindfulness inspired activity where visitors were asked to think of something that made them happy; a holiday, a pet, a sporting moment and then recreate this as a diorama in a box or jar. The results were fabulous, really inventive with some great engineering.

I have also designed a creative writing task to go into the museum’s activity ‘backpack’. I’m now working on a heart themed activity ready for half term next year. So, work can be fun and engaging, but of course behind the scenes a lot of work goes in to preparing and organising events and activities.

I’m gaining a behind the scenes insight and beginning to understand the heritage world as a perspective employee. There is so much to learn and understand and I’ve been really lucky to have such a great opportunity.

Just what the doctor ordered!

70 years later...

“Well done” and “Thank you”!

As part of NHS 70th birthday celebrations, Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Alexandra Hospital and Kidderminster Hospital and Treatment Centre kept comments books so that staff and patients could give their thanks, comments and birthday greetings to Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

For a taster of the comments book left at the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch click here.

We are still transcribing the other two books, which will be kept in our research files at the George Marshall Medical Museum and will form part of our exhibition works in the future.

Poetry Tour with Tom Ball - Guest Blog

Today was the day of the Spoken Word Poetry Tour. Fortunately, I’m glad to think it was a success - though I don’t have much in the way to a frame a reference. It was certainly the first time I’ve done something like this. I’ve spoken at Poetry events in the past, but over a dozen in just half an hour was somewhat daunting.

Our little group of 8 poetry enthusiasts, including a Father with his 2 children, served as a delightful audience. I was slightly concerned that I had written for a more mature audience, however they seemed to be as fully engrossed as the rest of the group were - and even responded with some poetry of their own, which I’m not ashamed to admit made me a little bit envious of their talent.

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I was pleased with the end result. I would have liked to write a poem for each of the display cases on show, however the amount I’d written turned out to fit into the 30 minute time-slot exactly. I was pleased in that sense - and based on the reaction of my audience, the decision to focus on quality over quantity turned out to be a smart one. Perhaps, should something similar to this happen again in the future, I’ll dedicate more time to fit in more poems - poetry is something of a dying art, and the more time spent appreciating it, the better.

Looking back, I feel I could have provided a more immersive experience. While reading handwritten poetry is arguably better than attempting to give a tour whilst carrying a laptop around, in an ideal world I would have memorised the poems - some of them, at least. Unfortunately, I am a student, and with essays due the same week as the tour, time simply did permit me the hours to both write and learn the poems. This isn’t to say that reading from the notebook distracted from the experience, but where a person can go that little bit further in the name of art, they should at least write a blog post saying that it’s what they would’ve done.

Overall, I feel like this unique tour was a success. It certainly challenged my creative abilities - existing poetry about 19th century bone-setters to use as a reference point was a terrific way to waste an hour - but it was also a learning experience as well. I had to get to know the artifacts, and the displays, and the lives behind the people featured in the museums, in order to portray them with the respect they deserve. Not only was able to improve my creative builds through writing about niche topics, I was able to appreciate what it was like to be instituted in an early mental asylum, or be strapped into an amputation chair in a time before anaesthetic, or to be a patient-come-victim of untrained bone-setters in a way that I never would have before. Preparing for this tour was a good test of my abilities, and something that I would be very happy to have the opportunity to perform again.

First Impressions - A Guest Blog

Hi!

My name is Tom Ball, and I am a second year student at the University of Birmingham. I’m working with the George Marshall Medical Museum from October through into December. I am here to explore the history of medicine in Worcester, and uncover the lives of those that have - voluntarily or not - contributed to our understanding of medical science.

I am originally from Worcester. My father has lived here for 25 years, myself for 21, and neither of us had any idea of Worcester’s rich history in regards to medicine. When I first saw the museum for myself, I was astounded at the hidden history, the importance of Worcester in the history of medical science - and, admittedly, slightly ashamed of my ignorance. Despite the old adage of the dangers of assuming, I suspect that this museum holds nothing short of a surprise to Worcester and her people. There has clearly been a wonderful job done here to ensure there is something in every display to make you say - “Wow! I had no idea.”

It certainly came as a shock to me that Worcester hosted, in her older days, the face of Women in Medicine - Florence Nightingale. It was even more of a pleasant surprise to see one of her letters hanging in the display cases.

While I knew of the executions that used to take place in Worcester, to see the faces of the criminals hung was something of a morbid fascination. As moulds were made of the deceased’s heads - creating so-called Death Masks - there is something somewhat indescribable about looking into the face of a murderer, executed some 100 years before you were born.

I think the artefact that sticks out to me most prominently, is simply a wooden chair. It does not sit in a display case, in fact it is nestled in the corner between two larger displays. The description of it, under the ominous title of Amputation Chair, tells us that this is an original object from the Worcester infirmary. Patients from Worcester had been strapped in this chair, anxiously awaiting for a surgeon - with little knowledge of disease, bacteria, or hygiene - to saw through their bones. And, looking at the desperate scratch marks etched into the wood near where the hands would have been restrained, it would be fairly safe to assume that most patients (or is that victims) started to wish they’d just taken their chances.

The museum, at the risk of sounding cliche, is nothing short of a hidden gem nestled away in a quiet corner of our city. It is crafted from surprises, original pieces from the original infirmary, and manages to touch on the morbid curiosity all of us are carrying - especially around this time of the year.