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A project exploring the effect of different medical and care technologies on people’s everyday lives has been highly commended by the University of Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor at the Public Engagement with Research Awards 2019.

Receiving recognition in the projects category, the project was a joint effort between Gemma Hughes in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Beth McDougall and Jozie Kettle.

It is inspiring to see the positive impact these activities have both on research and on the individuals and communities that have been involved, from Cambodian villages to 'Baby Higgs' hunters and the children of imprisoned mothers.”Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, University of Oxford

Messy Realities brought together researchers, museum professionals and community members to provoke debate on the meaning of technology, using the Pitt Rivers collections to facilitate discussion.

Conceived as part of the Wellcome-funded SCALS (Studies in Co-creating Assisted Living Solutions) study, Gemma Hughes and her colleagues are researching how assisted living technologies can help people with health and social care needs, particularly whether these technologies have the potential to enable independent and safe living.

Through a series of workshops with community members, the Messy Realities connected museum collections with these contemporary technologies to stimulate discussions and generate provocative answers and further questions that formed the basis of a co-curated display in the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Questions posed included:

  • Can technology care for humans?
  • Why are some technologies abandoned?
  • Why are some technolgoies taken up in ways they were never intended to be used?
  • How can historic ethnographic materials become a catalyst through which to rethink ‘contemporary’ assisted living technologies?

The Messy Realities team are now planning a pop-up collection at the Wellcome Collection, a photographic display at the Pitt Rivers and are developing ideas for a major exhibition on assisted living technologies for 2023.

> Find out more about the Messy Realities project

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