Guest post: Kerry Whitehouse from The Infirmary, Worcester on dramatising medicine for Museums at Night

In our latest guest post, graduate trainee Kerry Whitehouse talks about how The Infirmary, Worcester is engaging university students with the dramatic element of Medicine, as they rehearse for their Museums at Night performances.

Tables with cabinets displaying an assortment of artifacts. Information on the walls to read and a set of headphones resting on a table.

The Infirmary’s interactive exhibition at the University of Worcester’s City Campus combining history, science, art and technology

We’re a medical museum in the heart of Worcester, housed in the former Worcester Royal Infirmary, and now owned by the University. How can we engage their students with our collections and stories?

One way is to include them.

How we involve drama students

The Infirmary is very pleased to be working with the drama department from the university to deliver one of their course modules. ‘Theatre, Real Lives  and History’ is a module that enables the students to develop their skills within the context of The Infirmary and accompanying historic rooms, such as the hospital’s former Board Room and Chapel.

Objects and information from the gallery inspire the students’ creative processes as they immerse themselves into characters from the hospital’s past.

The groups will then pitch their proposals in a ‘Dragons Den’ style presentation to determine which group will be involved in the Infirmary at Night Museums at Night performance.

This week, the students are working on First Person Interpretation, so they have cast themselves back into the characters displayed in the museum. I ventured out of the office today and spoke to the groups to get their ideas and thoughts on how it was all going.

A group of students working around a table

Drama students Isaac Alcock, Beth Crump, Jade Senior-Moulavi, Hannah Dhimaan and Kelsea Braddish researching for their performance

Group work

Each group was working in different ways. One group in the chapel had decided to sit around the table first to discuss how they were going to work and were assigning characters. The other two groups were engaged in acting and were busy rehearsing some of their scenes.

One group I spoke to were rehearsing in the museum, which is based in a former hospital ward. They used some of the museum’s dressing up costumes to help get them into character.

This group had already decided which characters to portray and when asked why, one of the students who was portraying Charles Hastings (Founder of the British Medical Association) said that he felt he had an empathy to the man, as it was thought that he had become a doctor because his father had been injured in an accident and had become disabled.

This group had opted for a ‘time-travel’ theme, with the past meeting the present. I watched as Matron Mary Herbert interacted with a present-day tour guide taking them around what was once her ward.

A collection of drama students. A woman dressed as a nurse talking to another in a white doctors coat. A woman with a bloodied apron stands behind them between two men.

Drama group getting into costumes: note the bloodied apron (L-R) Nurse Lucy Towns, Jeremy Weighill, Hannah Ives, Christopher Lopez, Doctor Kate Adams

The goals of the performance

When I asked this group on what their goals were for the performance for Museums at Night, they told me that their main aim was to engage a younger audience, by educating and entertaining them.

While I was observing the class, one group offered to show what they had been working on with the rest of the class. When asked at the end of the piece “How did it make you feel as an audience?” the replies were: ‘It was fun’, ‘It made me feel a little tense’ and ‘I loved how it was interactive’.

The performance itself is in its infancy, but after watching what the groups were working on and how they were working together, I’m really excited to see the end result!

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Kerry Whitehouse is a graduate trainee working with both the George Marshall Medical Museum and The Infirmary in publicity and marketing.

Follow the Infirmary on Facebook for more updates ahead of their Museums at Night performances.

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Thanks, Kerry!

If you’d like to write a guest post or share a case study about any aspect of audience development, event planning or marketing in the arts and heritage sector, please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

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