Pic copyright Phil Tragen 2019

An interactive exhibition exploring the wonder and fear of 19th Century medical science in a family-friendly way is currently displayed at The Atkinson in Southport.

Dr Jekyll’s Study: Science and Medicine in the 19th Century is set in a Victorian doctor’s study, complete with real surgical instruments and medical equipment from the period, and exhibits to test if visitors have the steady hand and nerve needed by a surgeon of that era.

The 19th Century was a time of rapid advances in science and medicine. Researchers made new discoveries about the human body and mind that were thrilling, but could also seem terrifying.

Some of the most famous monsters in fiction were inspired by the scientific discoveries of their times and this exhibition allows visitors to explore the connections between 19th Century medicine and the literary works that it influenced, such as Frankenstein (1818), Dracula (1897) and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886).

Visitors can learn about the women like Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, who pioneered new nursing techniques and paved the way for the first female doctors, and see first editions of the Sherlock Holmes stories whose author, Arthur Conan Doyle, also trained as a doctor before turning his hand to writing fiction.

The exhibition has been developed and curated by Edge Hill academics Dr Laura Eastlake, Dr Andrew McInnes and Dr Bob Nicholson, all from the Department of English, History and Creative Writing and Dr Douglas Small, a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow from the University of Glasgow. The contributors are all specialists in 19th Century literature, history and medicine, and the exhibition which is sponsored by Alcohol Research UK and the Past and Present Society, follows Edge Hill’s 2018 conference Substance Use and Abuse in the Long Nineteenth Century. The medical equipment, which includes anaesthetic and ophthalmological instruments, is loaned by the Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds.

The exhibition features original artwork by Hannah Halliwell, a third-year doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham. Hannah won a creative competition run by the organisers of the conference, which challenged researchers of 19th Century medicine to capture their research ideas in one image. Her artwork will be displayed in the exhibition as a tongue-in-cheek guide called ‘How to paint a morphine addict for the French fin-de-siècle annual Salon’.

Dr Jekyll’s Study: Science and Medicine in the 19th Century runs until Saturday 25thMay 2019 between 10am and 4pm at The Atkinson. Admission is free.


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