Health Matters – complexity and materiality in the medical museum

Name of applicant

Adam Bencard


Associate Professor


University of Copenhagen


DKK 4,289,822



Type of grant

Semper Ardens: Accelerate


Most disease states today are complex. They involve interactions of biological, social, psychological, and economic processes, in ways that may be unpredictable and adaptive. This demands new methods and new approaches in health research, but also creates a cultural and communication challenge: How can we talk about health and illness in ways that are responsive to this underlying complexity?


Health complexity concerns patients, policy makers and the public alike, as they are increasingly presented with multi-dimensional science that complicates understandings of health and illness. This is both a democratic and an individual issue, which is compounded by the fact that current public debates on health and health care systems often leaves little room for uncertainty, nuance and doubt.


Health Matters proposes that medical museums have a set of tools – historical objects, social spaces and curatorial expertise – uniquely suited to the challenge of discussing health complexity. Health Matters explores how encounters with objects from the history of medicine can foster deeper understandings of health complexity and the entangled nature of health, bodies and environments.

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