Enhanced Humans? Manchester Museum of Medicine and Health pop-up exhibition

With the rise of ‘wearables’ such as Fitbits, ‘smart’ devices for automatic diabetes control and drug administration and bionic arms amongst other futuristic health technologies, questions about what the future of human enhancement are becoming commonplace. The devices are new, but the quest to upgrade human bodies and lives is not, and it’s useful in times of change to look towards history in order to better understand today’s world.

This is something the ‘Enhanced Humans?’ exhibition, by MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies students attempted to do, transporting visitors to different eras of health technology through a carefully curated collection of objects from the Museum of Medicine and Health, and performances from students acting as anachronistic health professionals.

Central Library, where the exhibition was held, also added objects to the exhibition including through a 1555 edition of De Humanis Corporis Fabrica: an early, beautiful book on human anatomy.

The displays were split into five themes: including topics like eye and ear upgrades (hearing aids, glasses), pharmaceutical innovations, joint replacements and prosthetics, and ‘cure-all’ objects such as a leucotome -an instrument for lobotomising people. A pharmacists’ bench encouraged visitors to try using a mortar and pestle to try grind their own ingredients and roll their own pills, amongst other hands-on activities.

Bryony Rigby, Heritage Officer at the Museum of Medicine and Health said: “This yearly event is a great opportunity for the general public to see more of the amazing museum collection, including objects which have never been on display before. It’s also a great opportunity for the students to make the exhibition really their own – every year is so different!”