People's History of the NHS

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Building, Rebuilding, Unbuilding the NHS: An Interdisciplinary Workshop

Mar 16, 2019
Black Country Living Museum

Building, Unbuilding, Rebuilding the NHS: A Heritage Study Day

Black Country Living Museum

Higher than the handsomest hotel

The lucent comb shows up for miles

Philip Larkin, The Building (1972)

Hospital buildings are a ubiquitous feature of British daily life, regularly seen by commuters, patients, staff, and members of local communities.  Yet these buildings are not just bricks and mortar, but rather are imbued with meaning and emotion.  For local volunteers, historic hospital buildings – often built in the Victorian era – can represent a caring connection between the NHS and local publics.  For staff and patients, the smells and sounds of hospital buildings may have changed over time, and inherited architecture may cause challenges for daily work, or fond attachment.  For campaigners and locals, the closures of hospital buildings, their ‘modernisation’, or their repurposing, stereotypically as luxury flats, can cause controversy and despair, but also community empowerment.

This day-long workshop brings together papers and contributions from historians, campaigners, Friends groups, and people who are interested in – and care about – how the specific architecture, construction, and removal of hospital buildings has shaped public perceptions of Britain’s National Health Service over time.  Papers will reflect on hospital closures, re-openings, and long-standing hospitals, and on their sights, sounds, smells, and construction.  We will discuss the material culture of hospitals, and the memories which they evoke, or change.  The day will also include a tour of the Black Country Living Museum, which reconstructs, restores, and repurposes historic buildings, and which is in the process of developing a new 1950s Infant Welfare Clinic.

We very much welcome all attendees, and particularly those who have memories or views about local hospitals or general practice surgeries, which we would love to hear.  For further information, please do feel free to email J.Crane.1@warwick.ac.uk.

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