New York, London, Oslo: art collections at the click of a mouse

One of the most powerful teaching tools available to educators is- for me- art. And one of the wonderful things about being a medical educator is the fact that so many of the world’s great art galleries and museums have- or are in the process of -making their collections freely available on-line. In this posting I’ll tell you about three of my favorite on-line collections in the hope that you’ll share yours with me.

First up is New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The museum’s stated aim is to ‘seek to create a dialogue between the established and the experimental, the past and the present, in an environment that is responsive to the issues of modern and contemporary art, while being accessible to a public that ranges from scholars to young children.’ Importantly, from the perspective of medical educators around the world, the on-line catalogue is accessible in a very practical sense, with a search engine that allows users to identify relevant works of art at the click of a mouse.

To see what I mean, use the advanced search option to search under the following group of terms -doctor ill sick patient nurse- and you’ll be rewarded with links to and a detailed descriptions of 156 potential teaching aids. The first of these- Doctor Giving Massage to Patient with AIDS from The New Provinetown Print Project 1993, by Sue Cole- is enough all by itself to reward the effort.

Another amazing resource available via the MoMA website is the fully searchable DADABASE: the Online Catalog of The Museum of Modern Art Library, Archives and Study Centers.

Closer to home, for me, is the National Gallery Collection. Again, a wonderful searchable on-line catalogue although, without an advanced search, identifying suitable resources is a little more difficult. Nevertheless, searching under ‘death’ came up with 111 suggestions including Hogath’s satirical ‘Marriage A-la-Mode: 6. The Lady’s Death’.

Last but not least amongst my favorite on-line collections is that of the Munch Museum in Oslo.

Not only does this site feature paintings from the collection but also a series of on-line exhibitions. I have many favorites in this collection but ‘Death in the sickroom’ -a powerful depiction of loss and its long term impact on all those affected-is my choice for today.

The on-line collections I’ve recommended necessarily reflect the parts of the world I live in and travel to. So please, share with readers of this blog your favorite on-line collections, so that we can all enjoy them and so that they can enrich all of our teaching and our scholarship.

  • Rob

    For extremly stressed practitioners the Munch usefully provides a blank colour in outline of the scream which can be downloaded, printed out and coloured in. More places should provide this kind of stress relief feature.

  • marion lynch

    MOMA was a welcome trip into the arts and will definately remain part of my adventures in medical education. Thank you for the guidance. Marion Lynch

  • I really love the Hermitage Museum website.
    The Hermitage, located in St Petersburg in Russia, remains a bit more out of reach for most of us, yet the collection contains just so many of the most canonical of artworks. Thank goodness the Museum was able to invest in an easy to use website that includes extensive, three dimensional virtual tours of the space. You use your mouse to pan, turn and zoom. (Though of course, nothing compares to the shock of visiting the place in real life – the outrageous opulence gave me a gut-level understanding of why revolutions occur, and a sudden vivid insight into the debates about the links between poverty and disease in the nineteenth century). The digital collection of individual works is extensive and allows for focused close ups.
    I personally am a huge fan of the lyricism and pathos expressed in the sculptures by Canova, which are marvellous studies of the human body and explorations of what constitutes human beauty – at least, from a classical perspective! Other medical humanities students might want to explore the Rembrandt collection or pieces more immediately relevant to medicine, such as Horace Vernet’s ‘Plague in Barcelona’.

    Claire Hooker
    Coordinator, Medical Humanities
    Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine
    University of Sydney