Medicine changed faster during the 20th century than ever before. Using rich object displays, archive films and fun interactives, Health Matters explores how medical technology, health surveys and medical research have dramatically changed the way we experience medicine.

Recently updated, the first section of the gallery explores our relationship with medical technology in the home and hospital. An iron lung built by car workers and a kidney machine made out of a tin can are just two examples of the objects that show how innovation and mass production have transformed medicine. Many of the technologies on display, such as the contraceptive pill, had a dramatic cultural impact during the 20th century, whereas others, such as the MMR vaccine, have created dilemmas for us.

How do we know smoking is bad for us? Are you more likely to be unhealthy living in the north or south of the UK? The second section of the gallery uses a series of fun interactives to examine how we measure the health of communities, and suggests that medicine is as much about preventing ill health as curing it.

How does looking at our cells and genes help us understand disease? The final section of the gallery takes a look at the science behind medicine. On display are some of the iconic technologies of late-20th-century medical research, including pioneering DNA sequencers and replication devices that are used by researchers to understand the causes of disease and to develop more effective medicines.

On display

Kidney machine used for home dialysis, c 1966.

An an 'artificial kidney' used by Moreen Lewis, one of the first patients to have a dialysis machine at home.

 
Health screening and surveillance of normal populations', 1994.

Hand-carved wooden automaton summarising visually health screening and surveillance programmes.

 
'Baby Blue' - a prototype polymerase chain reaction (PCR), c 1986.

The PCR machine automates the process of making large quantities of DNA from a tiny starting sample.