The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection; the people that organize after-hours events; the people that inform you about what is going on; the volunteer who gives up his time to help at the museum…These people make up the living fabric of the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret. We are delighted to introduce you to them and invite you to learn a bit more about them and the museum through these Q&A.
-So, who are you?
My name is Denise Leon and I am a specialist in the History of Art and Curatorial Studies.
-What is your role in the museum? What do you do? How long have you worked here?
I am a museum officer in the Old Operating Theatre. I have worked at this place for one year and my main duties are carrying out the visitor evaluation programme and participating in the design of the educational resources.
-Why the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret?
Because this museum has got a unique environment! It is astonishing!
-Have you always been interested in the History of Medicine?
My interests in the History of Medicine started after working as a volunteer in the Alexander Fleming Museum, in St. Mary´s Hospital, where I discovered the immense value of medical development.
-If you had to choose one object in the collection as being particularly significant to you, which would it be?
The Plague doctor mask, it reminds me the suffering of an entire society and how much medicine itself and the sanitary habits of people have been improved.
-Who is your favourite historical figure in the History of Medicine? Who is he/she? Why is he/she important?
Only one? I mean, there are a lot of historical figures I could name in this section. However, if I would have to choose only one I would say Florence Nightingale, not only because of her medical career, but also due to her strength.
-Has working in the museum changed the way that you see the history of medicine?
Of course, History of Medicine has helped me to understand the real value of medical development and its anthropological implications. Every society has had a different way to face sickness. Dealing with that sickness has always depended on a society’s level of the medical knowledge and its religious and cultural approach.
-What would you say the role of this museum is?
The role of this exceptional space is the re-interpretation of our past through a unique aesthetic experience.
-If you could change one thing in the museum, what would it be?
I would love having more space to develop temporal exhibitions related to our collection.