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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 13:11 GMT
Medicine from around the globe
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Ever wondered what an African medicine man might carry in his bag in the 19th Century?

An exhibit
The exhibition features traditional artefacts

For the record, it is thirty animal vertebrae, two pebbles, one hoof, two pieces of carved bone and one nut-shell.

Or has the appearance of a Sri Lankan syringe in the 16th Century caused a few moments of contemplation?

These are just two of the amazing exhibits that are set to form part of the permanent 'Living medical traditions exhibition' at the Science Museum, which opens on March 3.

Tradition

The exhibition tells the story of the development of medical approaches and treatments globally and emphasises that 'Western' medicine' is not the only widely used medical tradition.

Exhibits are used to illustrate four other major medical traditions - Ayurveda (Indian); Traditional Chinese Medicine, Unani Tibb (Islamic) and African.

We called the exhibition 'Living Medical Traditions' because we wanted our visitors to see the vibrancy of these traditions today as well as the richness of their histories
Lisa O'Sullivan

The exhibition discusses the traditions and explores the fact that they are still very much alive and continuing to grow.

Lisa O'Sullivan, senior curator of medicine at the Science Museum, said the project had given them the chance to learn about the traditions and ways of treating illness.

She said some Ayurveda methods of healing such as yoga and Chinese medicines have been adopted in the UK, but many were unknown outside their communities.

"When they were collected in the late 19th century, many of them were seen as anthropological curiosities rather than medical objects.

"This project has given us the chance to learn more about some of the objects we hold, as well as acquiring new material.

"But for me what is important is to get a more global view and to say that there are other traditions.

Traditions

"We called the exhibition 'Living Medical Traditions' because we wanted our visitors to see the vibrancy of these traditions today as well as the richness of their histories.

"We are keen to show that these traditions are still the first port of call for many patients, by choice, as well as necessity.

"It is important to say that we're not trying to comment on which treatments may, or may not work. We are instead trying to explore the diversity of approaches to treating illnesses that have developed in different cultures.

"We have got a whole range of things; some fantastic acupuncture figures and some African nkisi - or 'power figures' - used for healing, amulets and powders."

She said that, to create the exhibition, they had interviewed patients and practitioners from each tradition featured.




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Living Medical Traditions
02 Mar 06 |  In Pictures
Museum launches 'body' exhibition
14 Feb 06 |  West Yorkshire
Museum's hidden treasures
14 Jan 05 |  Health
Bodies show targets young smokers
26 Sep 04 |  Lancashire
Light cafe to beat winter blues
09 Jan 06 |  Health


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