A colored aquatint shows a scythe's blade curved in the shape of a semicircle. Underneath the blade is a skeletal beast-like figure holding an hourglass labeled "Yellow Fever" with diseased bodies labeled "Sore Throat" and "Dry Gripes" at its left and right. Dark insects and snakes populate the semicircle's dark background. Arched above are a number of seated, reclining, and standing white colonists. A winged elderly figure hovers above in the sky holding a bottle of opium, and the sun and zodiac symbols for cancer and leo are behind him. The work is labeled "The Torrid Zone" above the print, and below "Or, the Blessings of Jamaica."

Abraham James. The Torrid Zone, or, Blessings of Jamaica (A parody astrological diagram showing opposing aspects of the life of settlers in Jamaica: langorous noons and the hells of yellow fever). October 1, 1800. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism

Art Hx addresses the historical and ongoing entanglements between art, race, and medicine in the spaces of the former British empire, specifically Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, New Zealand, South Asia, and the United States from the 16th century onward. This project draws on historical materials and centralizes their ongoing influence on how we interact with, experience, and understand conceptions of health, medicine, and race today.  

Art Hx explores the histories of objects found in collections across the globe and presents connections between them through engaging educational material that can empower audiences to learn new or often erased stories about our past and how it shapes our present. We want to acknowledge the stories these objects tell, stories that have remained hidden, and stories that can engender new solidarities, transform methods of seeing and caring, and spur and support social change.

Three frameworksCultivating Care, Medicalized Space, and Pathologies of Difference—guide our research methodologies and are examined through 35 themes such as Epidemics, Scientific Racism,  Religion and Spirituality. The objects and images we have compiled draw our attention to these topics, and together, they inspire our research questions.

Beginning in Spring 2022, the Art Hx team is building a digital hub that presents interactive object-based narratives, offers data visualization tools, and continues to host a variety of programs. We hope Art Hx will foster dialogue and spark imaginative engagement with these objects and their histories. 

Look through the site, use the interpretive and educational material we have included, and join our free, online public events. Additional contributions and resources, authored by research team members, the 2021-22 Interpretive Fellows, and the 2021-22 Artist-in-Residence, are forthcoming! 

By unraveling the medical visions these objects and images present, we can learn to understand and care for each other differently.

Art Hx