‘Monstrous Births’ in medical museums

Close up of Mary holding a specimen jar with the remains of her dead baby close to her face. Photo credit: Zeynep Dagli
Mary holding a specimen jar with the remains of her dead baby very tightly to her breast. Photo credit: Zeynep Dagli

Julie McNamara was one of four artists commissioned by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (University of Leicester) for Exceptional and Extraordinary, which set out to examine inequality in representations of disability in medical museums. Her investigations inside the collections and archive vaults unearthed appalling practices towards disabled people in medical history, particularly focused on people with mental health conditions and people with learning disabilities.

The results of her research culminated in a play: Hold the Hearse! and the journey towards that work is presented in Julie Mc’s article: ‘Monstrous Daughters’ in ‘Feminism and Museums: Intervention, Disruption and Change’. Volume 1, December 2017′ (p. 495 – 509). Click on the links below to read it:



Three years later, it has grown into the first twisted tale in Vital Xposure’s new production ‘Medicine’s Monstrous Daughters‘, supported by ARC, Stockton, and touring nationally in Spring 2020.