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Views & Reviews Review

Are you normal?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 10 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:d7687
  1. Anna Sayburn, senior editor, Best Health, BMJ Evidence Centre, BMJ Group, BMA House, London WC1H 9JR
  1. asayburn{at}

How does society medicalise disability? Anna Sayburn was intrigued by an exhibition resulting from an artist’s residency at a medical research institute

By the time you reach the small gallery within the Hunterian Museum, where this temporary exhibition is housed, you’ve passed the skeleton of a seven foot Irish giant (see BMJ 2011;343:d7597, doi:10.1136/bmj.d7597), a jar containing the stomach of a tortoise, and all manner of diseased human body parts. The question of what is normal begins to feel irrelevant. Abnormal, by the artist Ju Gosling, is the revenge of these specimens in the glass cases. The exhibition gives them a voice to question how we decide who goes into this museum of medical curiosities as an exhibit and who goes in merely as a spectator.

Although most of the exhibition is in one room hidden away on the top floor, the questioning starts at the entrance to the museum, with a rack of white coats, each bearing a stencilled title. “Expert,” says one. “God,” says another. “Genius,” says a third. The coats are looped around with security chains; it seems some visitors …

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