Hidden History: Over 100 Years Mapping The Invisible (Catalogue)

Karen Fleming, Gabrielle Finn

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review

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‘Hidden History’ is a collaboration between an applied artist and a medical educator, it concludes a Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award of which the artist was Principal Investigator. ‘Hidden History’ investigates anomalies the researchers noticed in translating visuals in widely used medical texts onto real people. A medical humanities approach considered 3 main imperatives: What is the agreed ‘knowledge’ or map? How has visualisation developed? What is the translation from illustration to real life? Dermatomes were chosen as an example of a clinically useful invisible ‘map’. Current knowledge of dermatomes builds on late19th century foundations of related disciplines of clinical neurology and neuroscience. The scientific basis is somewhat hidden in history and comparatively little 21st century research informs current depictions. A 100-year period was therefore indicated. Dermatomes were found to be illustrated on the exterior of a body which informed parallel conceptualisation in alternative 2D to 3D translation into close-fitting exosuits. Analysis of content, style, form, gender, race, anatomical position, citation and colour was conducted to understand how the scientific information has evolved as a graphic construct. This analysis was overlaid with narrative of biographic and historical milestones. Through a novel practice methodology, the researchers then sought to assess utility and verify translation onto real body morphologies. A protocol was developed to document 4 maps through body painting. The insights gained are for learning, pedagogy, publication and dissemination applications. There were non-text, practice-based, ephemeral and performative aspects to the research in its published form as an illustrated presentation at the Visual Image and the Future of the Medical Humanities peer-reviewed conference (2014) and the visual documentation and summary published in the accompanying illustrated catalogue. The cross-disciplinary research methodology and methods were presented as a case study to the ‘Mind the Gap’ conference (2015).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 9 May 2014
EventThe Visual Image and the Future of Medical Humanities - Galveston, United States
Duration: 9 May 201410 May 2014


ConferenceThe Visual Image and the Future of Medical Humanities
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • cross disciplinary
  • Anatomy
  • body painting
  • Medical Humanities


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