Animating the archives

Museum for Addenbrooke'sWorking creatively with communities in Cambridgeshire to explore the extraordinary collection of objects and stories displayed in the Addenbrooke’s Museum

Addenbrooke’s was established thanks to a gift of £4,676 Dr John Addenbrooke left in his Will to “hire and fit up, purchase or erect a small, physical hospital in the town of Cambridge for poor people’.  Originally housing just 20 beds when it opened in 1766, today’s hospital has over 1,000.

As part of their 250th birthday celebrations, the hospital opened a new museum in October 2016. In the main corridor of the hospital, it houses a collection of just some of the extraordinary objects and stories stored in the archive.

Working with CCI has given me the opportunity to bring to light some of these objects and stories that have been ‘hidden’ for so long and to use them to illustrate the past of the hospital. 
Hilary Ritchie, Hospital Archivist

CCI visual artist theatre-maker Sally Todd worked with people of all ages during 2016/17 to animate the museum, inviting different groups to play creatively with ideas and provocations inspired by the collection. 

Groups involved include two supported by Caring Together – young carers in the county and people living with dementia and their carers – and a class of children from both St Philip's and Queen Edith’s Primary Schools. Each project had a different creative focus – poetry, story-making and sculpture - and Sally was joined by poet Jane Monson, fellow theatre-maker Steve Tiplady and sculptor Jenny Goater to support these.

I will remember how thirsty the children are for more art. I always try to get it in to lessons but this project brought back to me the need to keep things creative, the different ways that can hook the children in and engage them. I really noticed that for all of them.

It was really important that they had the chance to come to the hospital. I could see how they kept reaching back and bringing knowledge from their first trip to the museum at the hospital into everything they did with you afterwards.  I learned a lot about the history of Addenbroooke’s too.

Tasha Bowen, Queen Edith’s Primary School

I’m absolutely useless at making things but even being useless you can still enjoy it…it was very very relaxing. We were working together and having a laugh. I was caring for 25 years and have been coming to groups since 2003 and I enjoyed these story making sessions more than any others I’ve been do. Everybody joined in. The sessions reminded me of good things and fun days….just a few minutes where your mind isn’t thinking about the other person is better than 40 winks. You want to wash away some of those worries.

We do need useful information sessions too but you can’t lose yourself in a talk from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Richard, Shelford Dementia Carers Group

I was with my Mum and Dad. None of us are artistic and we were all a little bit apprehensive but we all got into it. Mum was making stuff and she didn’t worry if it wasn’t brilliant. It didn’t matter what you were making … you were talking and doing what you felt like doing and everyone was laughing.

The story was great – everyone was a roaring because it was just very fun. Allowing everyone to say whatever they want, generally ridiculous things, and then being able to put it into a story and go with it bought the whole group together.

Theresa, Shelford Dementia Carers Group

Posts below share a flavour of these projects. Two exhibitions of work created during these workshops have been curated for the hospital. Importantly archivist Hilary Ritchie has kept many of the elements created by the groups, preserving them as permanent contributions to the archive.

Animating the archives exhibition

Animating the archives exhibition

Animating the archives exhibition

Addenbrooke's Arts, HLF National Lottery and Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust logos

A Stork’s Nest on Addenbrooke’s Chimney


(Sally Todd) For our final session with the Shelford Dementia Support Group, everyone invented the wonderful story of Taffy and the Stork’s Nest.

Steve Tiplady with the group

We started with a clay model of Addenbrooke’s hospital and decided that a miner called Taffy got a job at Addenbrooke’s to clean the chimney. Amazingly, John, the visiting pianist had been the quantity surveyor in 1967 when the chimney was built and remembers how people who lived in Long Road came home from their holidays to find an enormous new structure behind their gardens.

The Stork's Nest on the Chimney in clay

Sally Todd with clay objects

Clay objects

In our story Taffy realised that a stork had built a nest on top of the chimney and laid some eggs. He was very hungry and wanted some breakfast so he poked the nest with his long brush and out fell an egg which he ran to catch with his frying pan that he happened to have in his back pocket. At that moment a little mouse got hold of a stretcher from A&E and by some miracle managed to catch the slow falling stork egg, lassoing it with his tail just before it crashed into Taffy’s frying pan. The mouse saved the egg and the baby stork was born and reunited with the mother stork on top of the chimney where it stayed until it learnt to fly……and Taffy went to Burger King for his breakfast instead!

After this delightful and raucous story, we invited the group to make some more creations in the clay and, as well as the mice, penguins, elephants, and sting ray there also appeared a stork’s nest, a cheese board…..and a wedding ceremony!

Clay objects

Participant making

Participants talking

As Kate created her model she remembered that she had been offered clay many years ago in hospital when she lay inside a plaster cast for nearly a year and how wonderful it had been to be able to make and be creative.

Finger pointing at clay object

Images credits: Gecko Photography

Frank and ‘Nellie’ the Elephant


(by Sally Todd)

Frank with Nellie and Dumbo made from clay

We met again with the Shelford Dementia Support Group and together with Steve’s support, everyone created a beautiful funny story with the clay. The highly sociable session involved making a clay elephant and a clay model of Frank who became the protagonist of the tale……a tale of a journey to Africa on Frank’s pension where he met a baby elephant on safari playing in the mud. Frank gave the baby elephant called Dumbo a bath to clean him up then took him back to Nellie the mother elephant and offered her a dead fly biscuit when she really wanted a bun!…so the big elephant bit him on the leg and he had to sit down and he thought, I need to go to the bunnery to buy her a bun…and see the doctor! so Dumbo flapped her big ears and flew Frank to the doctor where Frank remembered he was a good cook and made his own iced bun to give to Nellie who said sorry and they became firm friends.

Sally holding Dumbo

Participants working with Clay

After this joyful story…Well I just loved it and others would love that too said Pat…..we invited everyone to make their own creations in the clay and, amongst a few more elephants made, there were also giant peonies and imaginary gardens on lily pads and other offerings that symbolise comfort and solace like a song bird and a musical note.

Today I was trying to do a treble clef because music is a great comfort to us and Stephen has done a bird as he loves them. 
Judith and Stephen

Giant peony and miniature formal garden made from Clay

Treble clef and bird made from Clay

The comfort of guinea pigs


Tray with clay items made at the workshop

(by Sally Todd) We started our next session for the Shelford Dementia Support Group with a potted history of Addenbrooke’s Hospital by Archivist Hilary Ritchie who also brought some objects in to share with the group. We looked at nurses badges, belts and bonnets and wondered about the reliability of the old blood pressure gauge. The talk prompted thoughts about care and the hospital.

I’ve been in Addenbrooke’s for three operations… they looked after me in there and every patient had their own nurse. Ray

I worked in the female wards. I looked after the patients and they were happy to employ me, I was the only male carer . Frank

The morning was full of unexpected anecdotes including pet guinea pigs being taken in to a London hospital in a bicycle basket to comfort patients and the announcement by Ray that he had installed the first telephone at the new Addenbrooke’s site in 1958!

Wonderful creations emerged from the clay; a baby bath, medicine bottles, pestle and mortars, guinea pigs and pigs too, as well as cats and elephants!

I used to enjoy carpentry and loved doing this. It made me concentrate and focus on what I was doing. It was good exercise for my fingers as well and I found it therapeutic. Frank

Participant working with clay

Frank with his clay dragon

Clay Elephant

Clay mortars and pestle and medicine bottle

Clay Guinea Pigs

Using clay to animate ideas


Artists Sally Todd with members of the Shelford Dementia Support Group

(By Sally Todd) Theatre-maker Steve Tiplady joined me to begin our sessions with the Shelford Dementia Support Group. We spent a wonderful playful morning chatting with participants and their carers as we all explored the properties of clay.  In no time at all, models were made of roller coasters, dragons, castles, a barbecue with a puffer fish and even the new train station for Addenbrooke’s!

Shelford Dementia Support Group exploring the properties of clay

Hands exploring the properties of clay

Shelford Dementia Support Group exploring the properties of clay

Over the next three sessions we’ll be developing stories around the theme of Addenbrooke’s Hospital museum, using clay to animate our ideas, shared memories and responses. Work from the sessions will be included in our next exhibition for the hospital later this year.

It’s very fascinating to me


Image of all the young carers

(by Sally Todd) Over two days in April we had the pleasure and privilege of working with a group of young carers from the Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, inviting them to engage with the Addenbrooke’s museum.

Hilary the Archivist gave an introduction to John Addenbrooke’s legacy and then, with a nod to the ancient Greek Gods of medicine and healing and thinking of young carers as modern day heroes, we drew inspiration from the collection and created some amazing and eclectic images around the theme of medicine and health.

The group spent time experimenting with different art materials and had the additional excitement of a visit downstairs to the basement archive where they tried on nurses cloaks and had a closer look at objects in the collection.

Lucy and Chloe wearing nurses uniforms and swirling round and round

Xanthe wearing a nurses cloak

JP wearing the prosthetics that he made

Young carer working with wire

Young carers looking at prosthetics

On day two we worked with wire artist Jenny Goater to develop our ideas and ambitiously produced wire sculptures including surgeon’s portraits, a 3D Addenbrooke’s Bear, a fox skeleton (thinking of old bones in ancient apothecaries) and a nurses’s delicate belt buckle.

One of the yound carers working with wire

Wire sculpture and shadow

The young carers working with wire

One of the young carers showing her wire sculpture against and wall and it's shadow

Wire artist Jenny Goater working with young carer to produced wire sculptures

The group shared some of their highlights:

I wanted to wear the cloak because I saw one in the museum. It reminded me of Call the midwife. We went downstairs with Hilary to try one on. It felt warm and comfy. I wanted to take it home. I was surprised by how big it was. It made me feel like a nurse……it was a good feeling.
Chloe (18)

Going downstairs to the archive where no one else gets to go was great. We put on the old nurses uniforms and we were swirling….it made us think of Call the midwife. It’s something you can’t do every day.
Lucy (12) and Chloe (16)

I’d noticed the old fashioned photo in the museum and the beard. I’d finished doing a charcoal drawing and I was ripping up the paper – browns and grey and green – to try to make the beard. It was good to be able to do something creative and what I want for once – not having to do what other people need. I started it off after we came back from lunch and kept going for two and half hours. I really like art. At times I’ve spend 6/7 hours drawing and not noticed the time.
Alice (21)

I really liked seeing everybody here and eating lunch with them. Some of us go to school together but I’ve met new people too. When I was down in the archives I saw a prosthetic arm and other bits. It looked fun and tried to make my own and then I went into the corridor and got reactions from people. I was wearing a prosthetic arm and leg. People were a bit confused and said what’s going on.
JP (12)

Wearing the cloak was a once in lifetime experience and not many people get down there (to the archive). It’s very fascinating to me – I’m a history geek. I’d like to work down there. It would be very cold though. I enjoy finding out the history of people and places….I’d like to find out more about how they helped people in the healing process.
Xanthe (14)

Celebrating children’s ideas


Work from the two projects with classes of children from Queen Edith’s Primary School and St Philip’s Primary School has now been drawn together for an exhibition in the Treatment Centre Corridor. This is on display until June 1st.

It includes a collection of imaginary insects with special healing powers and a panel of bedsheets with words to comfort:

Inspired by the Museum's leeches jar and the role of leeches in medicine, children invented their own insect healers

The museum contains guidelines for bedmaking that belonged to Nurse Guilbault, a trainee here from 1970-1973

There are also ‘pocket poems’ to comfort staff and patients:

Pocket poem

Pocket Poem

Pocket Poem

It was a pleasure to immediately see the work being enjoyed by some of the brilliant staff who inspired it - here is Dylan the pat-dog meeting ‘Doge the dog-tor’ created by Owen and two nurses looking at the drawings of nurses of the past and future by Isheeka and Olivia from the day we put the exhibition up:

Dylan the dog meets dogtor

Image of two nurses

Nurses looking at the exhibition

Nurse ‘Medicine’


Thinking about the past has led naturally to thoughts of the future too for some of the children at Queen Edith’s Primary School. Here’s Aleena’s nurse of the future and Kayleigh’s potion poem written in response.

Nurse of the Future makes medicine by Aleena

'potion' poem by Kayleigh in response to Aleena's nurse

Blue Blood Spider


Ben is fascinated with spiders and was inspired by the idea of bugs and healing in medicine. He wanted to make a hospital for all the sick spiders he finds.

There are two dead bugs inside the giant spider…bloodletting. He has teared up to one million creatures with his bang on deadly fangs. The spider’s pale blue blood shall enter the patient’s body and the blood will sense where the person is injured and shall go to the cut, wait for a couple of days, and shall heal.

Blue blood spider by Ben

X-Ray Visions


Ruminating over X-rays from an earlier session left its trace on depictions of staff and patients and the curiosity of what lies under the skin:

Skin and front of body, bones inside by LukasSkin and front of body, bones inside by Lukas

Chest x-ray by AnaChest x-ray by Ana

A nurse ‘dress’ by CharlotteA nurse ‘dress’  by Charlotte

Wounded soldier by LudovicWounded soldier by Ludovic

Pocket Poems


(by Jane Monson) I invited the children to think what they would you like to find in their pocket after a challenging operation, either as a surgeon or a patient. Perhaps a scene portrayed in a few carefully chosen words that you wouldn’t normally see in a corridor, ward, waiting room or operating theatre? We asked the children to write a pocket poem for anyone they felt needed one, whether working or waiting.

Many of the responses were touchingly tender,  based on landscapes both here and abroad. Archie wrote the sea is blue, I wish it was glued onto me whilst Adi wrote of a sun set where the wind blows leaves away and field grass moves like waves.

Pocket poem Adi

‘The sea is blue, I wish it was glued onto me’ – a pocket poem by Archie

Lovely girl pocket poem

Object Poems


(by Jane Monson) Using two of the medical instruments chosen by each child in the museum archive and drawn or painted later in the sessions with Sally, we asked the children to form pairs and create a conversation between the two objects from their point of view. Drama, humour, and ordinary yet bizarre interactions followed.

I am the red and black cloak of Nurse Frost...with the wind in me as she runs off down the corridor.... and I am angry because I keep being dropped on the floor!

I am suppository. What’s your name? Syringe....

You can only imagine how the conversation continued between these two objects! The wonderful twist to the poetry here was in the drama Tom and Jackson proceeded to take to the floor and be each object.

Tom and Jackson in conversation as suppository maker and syringe

This was one example of many where the humour, drama and poetry collided and it was moving and inspiring to see so many of the children take on the task with such wit and enthusiasm. The other side of the tale was also memorable - some children who said I can’t do words ended up trying and finding that they could do them beautifully.

Darwing of a corridor at midnight

Word Duets


(by Jane Monson) Although without exception the children feasted upon the opportunity to create drawings, paintings and collages, one of my challenges in these two sessions we had together was to harness that energy and focus based on the images they had really enjoyed making and turn their hands and minds towards playing with language. While many were confident with verbal responses, others were less confident about putting those words to paper. I was curious to learn how they would respond to image and words at the same time, as well as to see how they were both stimulated and challenged when presented with words as another material.

Some had fun creating pictures with language by placing words or phrases directly on images they had already made:

Some had fun creating pictures with language by placing words or phrases directly on images they had already made by Ffion, Ella, Celine, Bella, Aleena and Emmaby Ffion, Ella, Celine, Bella, Aleena and Emma

Drawing by Ollieby Ollie

We also played with unusual word juxtapositions or pairings. Here are some gems from their word-play:

Silver People
Takeover Hospital
Dr Water
Sleep Cake
Golden Plastic
Biopsy Overslept
Blood Spoon

I particularly noticed how they enjoyed helping each other move the words around until they’d settled on their best duets.

Some had fun creating pictures with language by placing words or phrases directly on images they had already made

Poetry and Medicine


Jane with Kayleigh, Ffion and Piper

(by Jane Monson) As a poet, to be invited to take part in a community-based project which focused on a medical theme was immediately inspiring. From the beginning, I loved hearing about and seeing the artistic responses of the children to the Hospital Museum and then working with those responses back at the school where we set about playing with words, images and ideas.

When I asked the children: ‘what do poetry and medicine have in common?’ this is what quickly came back:

poetry calms you down
poetry is healing like medicine
poetry makes you feel better

I set out to work with the children as a poet, but my role morphed unexpectedly into so much more than simply bringing my primary practice to the project. The responses of the children enabled us all to think again about how poetry comes to be poetry in the first place and how it relates to so many other forms and sensibilities, among them painting, drama, humour, frustration, fear, hopes and triumphs.

Instead of just working towards a polished poem or poems at the end of the project, the children opened up the machine of poetry, threw it apart and restyled/remade it completely. When I mentioned that William Carlos Williams (a doctor then poet) had said the poem was a small machine made of words, the children understood why immediately: a machine is made of different parts and it all has to work. A poem too. The whole in the end didn’t matter as much as the parts. Understanding how to write a poem didn’t matter as much as each child learning to play with one, two or more words and seeing what they could do with language and/or images.

As a way of playing with words found in the Museum itself, we read aloud the ‘Bedmaking Procedures’ (themselves set out uncannily like verse and noted as such by one of the children) and invited the children to make their own bed sheets including words that would comfort them:

bed by Ludovicby Ludovic

Bed by Siennaby Sienna

Bedmaking procedures

Joey’s comfy bed by Joeyby Joey

bed by Bellaby Bella

bed by Rizwanby Rizwan

Sally picked up the word ‘counterpane’ and shared Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem The Land of Counterpane. Again the children’s definitions were so much closer to the possibilities of poetry: to counter pain, to not be in pain. These responses were also testament to their focus on the project and another example of how much the theme of medicine meant to them. I set out more of their ideas in the posts on word duets, object poems, and pocket poems.

This project was inspired and inspiring. Without exception, every single child engaged with at least one or several parts of the whole. I know I will remember this for a long time to come and I hope as the children see medicine, art and language continue to change around them, they will remember their own particular combinations of all of these parts and disciplines. The words and images were unique in themselves as well as a stunning and important record of what can happen when every so often you take away the tables, chairs and screens and bring out paper, paints, pens and quills. And of course, a Hospital Museum.

Injection Robots and Hovering Janitors


(By Sally Todd). Following their visit to Addenbrooke’s last week, class four at Queen Edith’s Primary School have plenty of questions about the hospital in the early days:

Girl drawing with a quill pen

Image of a boy drawing

What did they use to cure cancer? Why did they move the hospital?
How did they put people to sleep before injections and X-ray them before X-ray machines?
What sort of beds are the babies put in when they are born and how do they know which parent they belong to? 
Are they all put in the same bed with labels of the parents above the babies?....maybe they should do that

The children shared with each other what they remembered of the history of Addenbrooke’s starting with: The Big Bang! 1762, the second part of the hospital was fancy and maggots were used to bite off dead skin…. to robot doctors, brain transplants and hover cars that will replace wheelchairs in the future

Drawing of a robot nurse with text saying In the future they could make robot docotrs and nurses

Robot doctors and nurses

In evoking the story of medicine and its early practitioners, we listened to Shakespeare’s description of an apothecary:

I do remember an apothecary….
And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuffed, and other skins
Of ill-shaped fishes; and about his shelves
A beggarly account of empty boxes,
Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds,
Remnants of packthread and old cakes of roses,
Were thinly scattered to make up a show. 
from Romeo and Juliet, 1597

Followed by a Doctor’s prediction of the not-so-distant future for patients……..     

It’s June 2018. S. picks up a handheld device and
holds it to her finger. With a tiny pinprick, it draws
off a fraction of a droplet of blood, makes 2,000
different measurements and sends the date wire-
lessly to a distant computer for analysis. A few
minutes later, S. gets the results via e-mail, and a
copy goes to her physician. All of S.’s organs are fine,
and her physician advises her to do another home
medical checkup in six months.
from NEWSWEEK 2009

and then invited the children to respond with portraits of people from Addenbrookes ….

Drawing of an early operation by Ludovicearly operation Ludovic

Line drawing of Nurse 1660 by CelineNurse 1660 Celine

Drawing of a Nurse from the Past by AnaNurse from the Past Ana

Drawing of a Injection Robots 2027 by Vatan and OllieInjection Robots 2027 Vatan and Ollie

Drawing of a Push button Robot nursePush button Robot nurse

Collage of the Nurse of the Future makes medicine by AleenaNurse of the Future makes medicine Aleena

Image of lots of Robotic DoctorsRobotic Doctors

Drawing of a Panda Dog by EllaPanda Dog Ella

Drawing of a hovering Janitor by Tom and JacksonHovering Janitor Tom and Jackson

This week I am returning with poet Jane Monson and we will be offering the children lots of playful ways to start putting words to their ideas.

Prompted by the leeches jar


(By Sally Todd) As with our group from St Philips Primary School, we revisited the theme of insects and healing. Inspired by the museum’s amazing leeches jar and the role of leeches in medicine, we asked the children to invent their own insect healers that might help the medical profession in the future.

Watercolour of an extraordinary insects with healing powers are by Bella

Watercolour of an extraordinary insects with healing powers are by Adi

Watercolour Insect healer by Aleena

Watercolour of an extraordinary insects with healing powers are by Charlotte

Watercolour of an extraordinary insects with healing powers are by Archie

Watercolour of an extraordinary insects with healing powers are by Corben

My bug goes inside your body and eats your germs. People keep them in jars and they are found in the wild. Adi

My bugs make your eyes better. There are 2 so they can help each other if they are stuck, they are friends. They love warm weather. The red one has long legs and can run fast and the yellow one can fly. Bella

My bug flies in your ears and into your brain. It produces electricity to turn people back to life. It has so far saved 10,008,965 people! Corben

My bug has water in it and can help people whose skin needs more water. Archie

I have drawn a bug that will get rid of all the germs by eating them. The person who owns the bug can't get too hot as the bug will die because it doesn’t like being too hot. The white legs are for going faster in an emergency and the orange legs are for normal pace. Charlotte

This Doctor might have pizza in his beard


Boy drawing inspired by the exhibits

(by Sally Todd) We’re now working with Queen Edith’s Primary school and in our introductory session, invited Class Four to visit the museum and explore what’s in the collection. Through direct drawing, the children spent time actively looking at the weird and wonderful display of artefacts. Interesting juxtapositions and tiny details emerged in their drawings, revealing clues about the history of medicine and of Addenbrooke’

Drawing of a nurses' badges by IsheekaNurses' badges, Isheeka

Drawing of a syringe and doll by CelineSyringe and doll, Celine

Drawing of medical instruments by LudovicMedical instruments, Ludovic

Drawing of medical objects including upside down watch by VatanMedical objects including upside down watch, Vatan

Drasubg if a suppository maker by OllieSuppository maker, Ollie

Drawing of medical objects and teddy by PiperMedical objects and teddy, Piper

We looked closely at 1940’s operations and x-rays appointment registers plus patient’s case notes from the 1890’s too, to begin to get a flavour of hospital life and its staff and patients over a century ago.….

Did they write with quills then?
This Doctor might have pizza in his beard!
I wouldn’t think that would heal you but it might make you sneeze.
I was surprised by the tonsil equipment and a little freaked out by it too.
I saw a gold box that takes your blood, it had jigged knives.

Then, alongside a hands-on exploration of an old ophthalmologist’s lenses tray and some X-rays of humans and insects, we thought about the jobs of the physician and of the surgeon in treating patients outside and inside the body, and how X-ray imaging can visualise beneath the skin’s surface.

Image of a case noteCase note

Image of Humphrey Sir George Murray Humphrey
Medical Surgeon at Addenbrooke's 1842 - 1894

Exploration of an old ophthalmologist’s lenses tray

Exploration of some X-rays

Drawing of hand x-ray by FfionRibs x-ray, Piper

Drawing of hand x-ray by FfionHand x-ray, Ffion

Drawing of eye lenses by ArchieEye lenses, Archie

Doctors….Dog-Tors !


who works at addenbrooke's

(by Sally Todd) For our final workshop together we focused on the people at Addenbrooke’s; from the founder and pioneering medical staff in the museum photographs to the many people involved there today, Nearly everyone too felt connected to the hospital in some way, over half of the class were born there or knew someone who worked there or had been a patient at Addenbrooke’s.

We thought together who they might be and made a list. Many of the children were struck by hearing that there are special dogs that can visit patients and created a new role for them too:

Mr Brook, Trolley Man/Woman, Cook, Hilary, Midwife, Limb Clinic People, Magicians, Clowns, Pharmacist, Artist, Waiter, Doctor Bandage, Arm Doctor, Child Nurse, Foot Doctor, Hairdresser, Dog Doctor…..Dogtor

My Nanna used to work there and help men and women who were very old
My Nan used to work at Burger King in the hospital
My brother was born in Addenbrooke’s
My aunty works at DIB…she does all types of stuff mostly in the theatre

We wondered how many people work in Addenbrooke’s today?

I think there’s about one thousand people an hour going into Addenbrooke’sFour thousand…five hundred and forty-five…one million

Nurse Stange 1917 - Olivia

early nurse with hat Summayah

'John Addenbrooke' by Rohan

Dr Stavan Strennge

four headed patient

Doctor East, Visitor - Alex

Doge - Owen

dogter - Laila

doger_doctor - Lola

St Philip’s Medical Cabinet


St Philips 'medical' cabinet

(by Sally Todd) The next session with St Philips class of seven and eight year olds was at the school, and I was curious to find out which objects from the museum visit had made an impression on them. The children didn’t hesitate to tell me:

the bun, the big book, the microscope, leeches, the wheelchair, dolls, the stethoscope, the tonsil gun, cups, the teddy in nurse uniform, the legs and arms, the special nurse cloak, the old music player, the knife thing with sharp spikes, the thing you put your head in, the spoons…..oh we forgot the poison, the trophy, the pill maker that looks like a nut cracker.….I was surprised to see the soldier’s sketch book there!

Painting the 'poison'

I asked the children if we could create our own ‘medical’ cabinet in the school and to make what they thought would be important to go inside it, for now and into the future.

Bold and detailed objects, inspired by the museum archive, were created with significant adaptations such as the ‘medic-scope’, the ‘treetmants’ book and ‘Adam Brooks poisons’

Treatmants book

Treatmants book Connie & Lola

The medic-scope by Eli

Doctors tools cuts-outs made of cardboard by Alex

Prosthetic arm made of cardboard

Drawing of three posion bottles by Adam

Animating the archives


By Sally Todd

Photographe of prosthetics layed out on a table

A class of six to eight year old children from St Philips Primary School were invited along to celebrate the opening of Addenbrookes museum and take a closer look at some of the extraordinary objects now on view in the Hospital. Accompanying them on their visit was the Hospital Archivist Hilary Ritchie with her fascinating insights and knowledge of the collection. I asked the children to draw an object that intrigued puzzled or surprised them. They drew microscopes, surgical knives, stethoscopes and also:

The grabby thing that lifts the baby's head Alma

The machine in the olden times that flicked your tooth out Leas

The forty-two year old 'cake'.......its more interesting when its more years old to keep something!

Pencil drawing of a tonsil gunThe tonsil 'gun' (the Archivist's favourite object!)

Photograph of a Leech PotProsthetics and Leeches

Hilary had helped to identify some objects in the archive the children could look more closely at including the eye popping prosthetics display of model hands circa 1980's and the Leeches Jar with accompanying medicine bottles. Inspired by these themes, the children then modelled their own 'super' prosthetic including:

Special eyes on long stalks that can see all around Jay

Hover shoes so I wouldn't have to walk anywhere Eli

We thought about other healing insects or small creatures that like the leech, may be a bit yucky, but could be beneficial to our health.

Drawing of a Spider that can pull hairs out of its own body to give someone who's going baldThe Spider It can pull hairs out of its own body to give someone who's going bald

Drawing of a Leech pokerThe Leech Poker wakes people up when they're tired or ill

Drawing of a cold bugThe Cold Bug cools you down when you have fever