Birth through history online exhibition

What did childbirth look like throughout history, and how were pregnancy and birth imagined in different cultures and time periods? An exhibition curated by Trinity College Senior Tutor and Professor of French Valerie Worth and her colleague Dr Janette Allotey (Chair of the research group De Partu) took birth throughout history as its theme and is now available online.

Thanks to a collaboration with TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), the exhibition held at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has been turned into a virtual tour with commentary on the images and their historical context. The original exhibition was held in 2015, and was a key part of the Knowledge Exchange project celebrating 500 years of changing perceptions about pregnancy, and featured materials from the College’s own archives, contextualising them and inviting the viewers to reflect on the constants and changes in pregnancy and childbirth. The images from the exhibition range from a 1601 line etching of a midwife assisting a birth to a photograph taken of relaxation classes for expectant mothers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Professor Worth says: ‘Tales of births – normal, abnormal, monstrous, fantastic – have always fascinated. Birth is the one experience all readers have shared, yet cannot remember for themselves; know only through other people’s accounts of what happened. By adopting a historical lens from the Renaissance to the present, we can gain fresh insights into some of the recurrent debates in women’s healthcare and fetal medicine.’
The full exhibition and an accompanying blog are available on the TORCH Website as part of its Torch Goes Digital Project.

Posted: 10 June 2020

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