Objects of Knowledge in the Medical and Health Humanities


Course Objective

Students engage with the material culture of medicine to investigate how
museums collect and interpret medical history. The course trains
students to analyze diverse sources from previous centuries, from wax
anatomical models to surgical instruments, patient photographs, and
public health films, and to consider the meanings derived from such
materials in different historical moments and contexts.

Course Content

Classes focus on the production and use of historical medical artifacts,
and their interpretation today by scholarly researchers, museum
curators, and public audiences. Sessions include visits to medical
museums, curator’s tours of exhibitions and collections depots, and
hands-on classes working directly with objects and archival materials.
Course readings and discussions address the histories of collecting
different types of medical heritage, such as human remains or medical
technologies, and the challenges and benefits of preserving and
displaying them. Students are also encouraged to consider how the
presentation of the past reflects contemporary concerns, and conversely,
how historical objects might be used to engage with current issues, such
as anti-vaccination or disability rights.
This course is part of the specialist Master Track in Medical and Health
Humanities. Students who wish to complete the full track are also
required to take the course Introduction to Medical and Health
Humanities (Block 4), Knowing by Sensing (Block 4), and Research
Seminar: Medicine in Society (Block 5). It is also possible to take just
one, two, or three courses.


Teaching Methods

Weekly seminar (either at the VU or at a participating museum in
Amsterdam or nearby in Leiden, Utrecht, or Haarlem). Students are
expected to prepare for these sessions by completing the required
reading and/or viewing museum websites and online exhibitions. Regular
attendance is required.

Method of Assessment

1 short paper reviewing the student’s own responses to interactive
sessions with objects, and 1 longer paper due at the end of the course
presenting the student’s own findings about an object they have selected
for their own research.

General Information

Course Code L_GAMAGES036
Credits 6 EC
Period P5
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator prof. M.S. Parry
Examiner prof. M.S. Parry
Teaching Staff prof. M.S. Parry

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

This course is also available as: