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Vintage pharmacy bottles

Announcing the Visual and Material Lab as part of the Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities at Durham University.

Health has always had an intimate relationship with visual and material culture. Given this, it is surprising that visual and material culture has not played a more dominant role in the development of medical humanities to date, where it has often been subordinated to literary or narrative approaches.

The Visual and Material Lab looks to the new questions, innovative methods, and alternative perspectives on health that are generated when visual and material culture is taken as a starting point. Responding to recent calls for capacity-building in the visual medical humanities, the Lab will support an extended network of researchers and other practitioners working with visual and material methods across a range of disciplines and spheres of practice, some already aligned with medical humanities, others less so.

Led by Dr Fiona Johnstone, the Visual and Material Lab will include two postdoctoral positions in visual and material medical humanities, curatorial fellowships, mid-career visiting fellowships and short-term international visiting fellowships. The Lab expands on previous successful IMH-led visual and material methods projects, including Confabulations (2021-2023) and Thinking Through Things (2019-2021).  It also engages with, and provides a platform for, the work of external collaborators, cultivating new and existing relations with recent national and international developments in visual and material approaches to health-related research. The Lab will focus on mapping the field and developing a team across the 2023-24 academic year in preparation for a formal launch.

"The Visual and Material Lab puts the extraordinary potential of visual and material methods in the service of diversifying medical humanities research. Advocating for experimental, arts-led, visual and material culture approaches, the lab promises to support new voices, to centre different and varied health and medical experiences, and to allow for new connections among researchers. I am thrilled to be working with the lab as a collaborator.”
Allison Morehead, Associate Professor of Art History, Queen’s University, Canada.  

The Visual and Material Lab is part of the Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities at Durham University. The Platform is supported by a £9 million grant from the Wellcome Trust (2023-2030) awarded to Durham’s Institute for Medical Humanities to transform the humanities’ contribution to health research.

For queries about the Visual and Material Medical Humanities Lab, please contact Fiona Johnstone.