Art of disease: art classes for everyone

by Dr Carol Shiels in London, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 8th January 2021 we successfully raised £535 ( + est. £78.75 Gift Aid ) with 16 supporters in 45 days

Art of Disease: we aim to create a collection of free online art tutorials with inspiration from the St George's Museum of Human Diseases.

by Dr Carol Shiels in London, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

With extra funding, we will create a wider variety of art tutorials, with more classes specifically designed for primary school children.   We want to give all school children the opportunity to learn from the museum and this extra funding will help us achieve this.

We can also start thinking about improving the Museum itself and making it more suitable as a public venue. 

About the Museum of Human Diseases  

The St George’s, University of London Museum has over 2000 examples of human disease. Bones bent with tuberculosis, hearts with holes, bladder stones bigger than an egg and giant livers damaged by alcohol.  Each one has a story to tell us about the patient and the life they led.  

Our Museum has been teaching St George’s students about disease for almost 200 years. We want to share the Museum with a whole new audience, build a collection of free online art classes, draw together to create an online museum of experience and tell the stories of the people who lived and died at St George's. 

T1606127383_24th_sep.jpghis is the spine of man who lived over 100 years ago who died from tuberculosis. The bacteria infected his spine and the bones in his back collapsed and fused to form what is known as Pott's spine. There were no antibiotics available to destroy the bacteria and, like many people at that time, he died from the infection.


This i1606127517_gallstones-crop.jpgs a gall bladder containing some very large gall stones. These are likely to have caused the patient incredible pain and the surgeon decided to remove the entire gall bladder. The museum curator would have added this to the collection to help teach medical students about this common condition.


What we will use the funding for? 

We will create a collection of virtual art tutorials that will be freely accessible to everyone, from beginners through to advanced.  Talented artists will teach you how to draw and paint in different styles and in different media. We are involving teachers and schools in the design of the workshops to make the tutorials an enjoyable experience that is also educational and relevant to the national curriculum. 

Together we will explore different human diseases, helping you to understand more about your own health and reflect upon the lives of those who were ill when there was no national health service, no antibiotics, no infection control and no anaesthetics.  The stories are moving, sometimes painful to listen to, but they help us to reflect and be amazed when we learn about the research that has been done, and that still continues, to help us combat these diseases. 

In this video, artist Lisa Temple-Cox gives you a short demonstration of how you would start drawing the spine infected with tuberculosis.

Have a look at some of the artwork our students have previously created during informal art sessions in the Museum.  

1606127934_hassan.jpgThis is a heart drawn by Hassan Manzur, a student at St George’s. The patient had high blood pressure and the muscles of the heart have grown larger (known as hypertrophy) to keep pumping blood around the body against this high blood pressure.

1606128047_img_2572_(1).jpgThis is a drawing of the gall stones created during an online workshop this year with Lisa Temple-Cox. In this beginner’s session we were drawing with pen and learning how to vary the pressure of the pen to create shadows and highlights.  

1606128084_20191023_134245696_ios.jpgThis is a pencil sketch of another spine infected by tuberculosis. Here the student has labelled the parts of the spine to help them with their knowledge of anatomy.

The future of the Museum

2020 was going to be an exciting year for the Museum. We had planned to hold 20 public events in 2020 to open the museum to the public, to consult with our community and to find out what the public want from our Museum.   

Through this appeal, we want to find new ways to reach a public audience.  We want to engage with you through creating art together.  In supporting our campaign, we hope that you will also want to join our online community and enable us to involve and learn from you as we plan the public future of the Museum together.  

In the short video below you can see inside the Museum. 

About the curator: Carol is the Institutional Lead for Public and Civic Engagement at St George’s. She has been using the museum collection to teach students about human diseases since she became the museum curator in 2006. We have been unable to engage with students or invite schools into the museum since the pandemic began. Through this project we hope to find a way to open up the collection to a wider audience and involve you in online conversation about the collection to find out more about what the museum can mean to you in the future.  

About the artist: Lisa has exhibited widely and is an experienced speaker and workshop designer; her current interests revolve around medical museums.  You can read more about Lisa at the following website: Lisa Temple-Cox 


This project offers rewards in return for your donation

£5 or more

Artwork postcard

A postcard of one of the artworks created in the tutorials.

£10 or more

Artwork print A5 signed

An artwork print, A5 size and signed of one of the artworks created in the tutorials.

£50 or more

Artwork print A4 signed

An artwork print, A4 size and signed of your choice of one of the artworks created in the tutorials.

£100 or more

2 of 20 claimed

Sponsor an art tutorial

You will be sponsoring the cost of recording an art tutorial. We will give you a big thank you on our St George's website and a print of your choice of any artwork created from the tutorials, A3 and signed by the artist.

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