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.

Beginning in Spring 2022, the Art Hx team will be building a digital hub that presents interactive object-based narratives, offers interpretive data visualization tools, and hosts interdisciplinary programming, inspired by material in collections across the globe.

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.

As a research platform, Art Hx is organized around three main frameworks:

A map of the world with the British Empire colored in red. The top left and right corners feature tables of

How have colonialism and medicine mediated constructions of racial difference, disease, and health, and how has art been integral to the production of these histories of medicine? Pathologies of Difference maps the ways medicine and race shaped colonial expansion and traces their impact on perceptions of racial difference, disease, and health today.

An installation of Medical Series, featuring several cabinets and vitrines.

What do we mean by care in the practices of health and the practice of historical interpretation? How can we envision and create new modes of care? Cultivating Care considers the many meanings of care in the practices of (historical) study and analysis, as well as in practices of medical treatment.

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

How was medicine used to create meanings about people and places, and how has this affected the production of medical knowledge from which we still draw on today? Medicalized Space focuses on the ways medicine as a field of knowledge was used to interpret, categorize, and circulate meanings about humans and their environments.

Under each of these three frameworks, you will be able to find object-centered narratives that use the above questions as a starting point. Through Art Hx and these frameworks, we endeavor to “see” imperial networks, better understand how colonial expansion, the development of medical knowledge, and the production and circulation of visual culture were and are still entangled, and grapple with how such connections have often been elided or erased.

Art Hx