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Partnership with Durham University’s Institute for Medical Humanities

In partnership with Durham University’s Institute for Medical Humanities, our Museums, Galleries and Exhibitions team have produced exhibitions and delivered events and learning programmes linked to two major projects: Hearing the Voice and Life of Breath. 

Hearing the Voice is a large interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing aiming to shed light on the relations between hearing voices and everyday processes of sensory perception, memory, language and creativity. The project explores why it is that some voices (and not others) are experienced as distressing, how they can change across the life course, and the ways in which voices can act as important social, cultural and political forces. 

Life of Breath aims to show that breathing is so much more than a bodily function. It allows us to speak, laugh and sing. It connects us to the outside world. It reflects our state of mind and can be consciously controlled. Breathlessness is also a very personal experience. Some people deal with breathlessness better than others and as a result, doctors find it hard to measure and difficult to treat. Those living with breathlessness are often forgotten and the project aims to help people live well with breathlessness. 

These two Wellcome Trust funded projects, delivered with partner organisations including the Royal College of Physicians of London and the University of Bristol, brought our curatorial staff together with academics from disciplines including History, Literature and Philosophy, as well as doctors, artists, musicians and experts by experience. 

The exhibitions produced explored the research of the two projects using objects from the Durham University collections, as well as newly commissioned art and films. Local, national and international audiences could also contribute to ongoing research by taking part in talks, workshops, yoga and mindfulness classes. 

Both exhibitions went on local and national tours following their opening in Durham, including displays at Edinburgh Book Festival and the World Health Organisation Air Quality Summit. 

Online versions of the two exhibitions are available to visit here:  

Find out more: Institute for Medical Humanities

A man in a diving suit and goggles reaches up through water to an ice sheet over his head