Naming of Parts

Heritage Open Doors Weekend, September 10th Naming of Parts – Pat Jamieson and Carol Laidler


For the Heritage Open Doors Weekend, September 10th we ran a participatory event as part of our research for Naming of Parts. We set up an awning outside the Museum and placed a table with crayons, chalks, pencils and small silhouettes of figures to label and colour, as well as two life-size blackboards leaning against the Museum. We wanted to work with visitors to examine emotions, where they are held in the body, how they are labelled and how they are experienced and use this to open up conversations about how it feels to be alive.

We asked people to shut their eyes for a minute and be aware of where they felt physical sensations in the body and then describe these sensations by writing or drawing.

This process allowed us to enter into a conversation with participants about complex feelings. We were interested in engaging people in thinking about how language is used in relation to how we experience a range of complex responses to the world outside ourselves as well as our own physical reactions. We wanted to find out if people felt that there were feelings or emotions that existed and were experienced in our bodies that did not have a name.


The event was a great success. Despite the rain we had a steady stream of visitors, upward of two hundred, many of whom were interested in taking part. In fact there were times when it was hard work keeping up with demand.

The event was both challenging and intimate and we were surprised and moved by the quality and frankness of the people who took part. Of particular note was a family of four, father, mother, teenage daughter and ten year old son with special needs, who engaged in the task with serious concentration and produced thoughtful images and insightful responses.  Indeed we were overwhelmed by people’s willingness to work with us on what seemed like a very deep level. By the end of the day we felt that something very special had taken place.


Unlocked Writing Workshop

August 6th


We are well prepared for the first Unlocked Writing Workshop. Pat and I have made cakes and we’ve written copious notes. Anwyl brings strawberries. We sit round the large oak table usually weighed down with books below the photos of Victorian patients. There are ten of us – several volunteers from the museum itself and some artists new to the museum, an interesting mix. Pat and I have put together a series of exercises, some short and punchy to get things going and some longer with more time to observe, describe and reflect. One thing that strikes me when we share what we have written is that hearing everyone’s written descriptions of the cabinets is as exciting as looking at the artefacts themselves, sometimes more so. Something profound happens in the translation from looking to word. We write, read out and discuss. We had wanted to consider and talk about the assumptions that we bring to the place and at times the volunteers explain the background to contextualise some of the objects and photos that we’ve been looking at. Everyone here has brought their own histories and associations as well their own different writing styles. We collaborate to write a poem, each writing a line and then playing with the order to see what comes out.

Allowing myself the luxury of space travel

Colours shining, shimmering on white paper

Irrational thoughts

Out of darkness comes forth sweetness

Can it?

The organ sleeps

Its echoing voice silent

In the dim light

The patient act

Of being a patient

Held involuntarily

Stored in a cool dark place

There is so much noise here

The blast and tremor of the organ

Here are the keys to understanding

First stop to unlock


We seem to have arrived in the wrong section





Touched – Has anybody seen my girl?

16th July


When Pat and I arrive, Stella asks if we would like to work in the Turret Room. She unlocks the tower door on the outside of the building and we follow her up the narrow winding stairs into the balcony space above the children’s corner. Lit by a dusty window, the balcony is furnished with a metal filing cabinet, a large oak table and a shop manikin in a long navy dress and a wig.  We sit at the table and look across to the organ where the organist, flanked by two large artificial plants on stands, sits playing “Has anybody seen my girl?” He pauses for a bite of biscuit and a sip of tea then plays on.
Up here we are struck by the cacophony of sounds that float upwards, the strange echoes that bounce around magnifying some tones more than others in this ear-like funnel; Fragments of conversations, hurdy gurdy chatterings, lively interlocutions, hard, happy noises. Across the nave the stained glass windows hover, more present up here. The only bright colour, animated light, stories etched unknown or forgotten in my secular mind. As ever the pervasive smell of the church, creosote, or is it oak? So strong it lingers on my clothes long after I leave. We write for 15 minutes and then read to each other.

Excerpt from Stained:

as the dust
as the sound of voices
stain the silence
where once
the dying and the damned
like the bed sheets
The organ
and the sounds
this monument
on a gamble
that the future
will be better
a land of hope and glory
(so the organ sings now)


Lunch with the volunteers

13th July


We buy sandwiches, crisps and strawberries on our way to the Museum. Each of us has baked a cake and after a mornings research, we prepare lunch for the volunteers. The video screen is set up so that we can show our website, the trolley loaded with cake and sandwiches. We make the tea and put out the chairs. There is a good crowd and plenty to eat. We introduce Unlocked, explain why we are interested in the museum and to give an example of our approach and the kind of art we make, we talk a little about our last project – The Time Machine. We also speak about the individual artworks that we are making in response to the museum and the events that we are planning over the next months: the Writing Workshop on the 6th August, the Memory Workshop we would like to run with the volunteers in September, the Boys Don’t Cry Workshops and our contribution to the Open Heritage Weekend – Naming of Parts and Graphs. Many of the volunteers seem very interested. Bryan is particularly supportive and both Sue and Helen said they would like to come on the Writing Workshop. Stella suggests that volunteers who hadn’t worked at the hospital could choose a story from the museums existing recordings for the Memory workshop. Ann says she will bring the hairdresser and there are a few others that she is still in touch with.

Touched – Sponge Holding Forceps

13th July


Pat and I continue the process of describing and reflecting on the cabinets in the museum. Today I find myself in front of a cabinet filled with a variety of chrome tools for operations, each adapted for a different task in the operating procedure, perfectly weighted and shaped for the grip of a hand. Next to it hangs a photograph of a team of doctors and nurses standing around an operating table, the patient lies hidden between them, below a pile of sheets. One of the doctors is holding a limb and half turns, his moustached lips smiling to the camera.

Excerpt from Sponge Holding Forceps

Sponge holding forceps

Intestine crushing clamp

Cheatles Sterilised forceps

R B Shears

Someone sat and designed

each object

here on display

for specific use

a pinch of fingers

the exact grasp of a hand







clamp back



each tool perfectly devised

through practice

for its appropriate action



Touched – This Slipper Bedpan

6th July

Encouraged by our presentation of Flight at the Language, Landscape and the Sublime conference, Pat and I start planning the Unlocked Writing Workshop. We write a list of exercises we want to introduce and try to estimate how long they will take. We decide to trial some of the exercises and time them. It’s interesting to see how the exercises change in the course of doing them, we want to question assumptions brought into the museum – I notice by the words I initially choose, my own assumptions are working overtime. We do the exercises again and decide to do a 15 minute piece of writing every time we are there. This will be the basis of a new piece of work – Touched – which like Flight will start as a performance reading with images and then possibly become something else.

excerpt from This Slipper Bedpan:

This slipper bed pan
should be passed under
the patient in front
between the legs
If a flannel cap is made
for the blade
fastened by strings
under the handle
considerable comfort
will be
Nil by Mouth
When I first visited
she could get out of bed
in the row of beds
and with my help
to the
bathroom to pass,
in brackets