Imagining the future
Brona McVittie, Head of Public Engagement at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, is on a mission to highlight the work of the MRC as we approach our 100th year. Here she tells us about a planned centenary installation and the schools competition— complete with comic book— that will feed into it.
The MRC will be 100 years old next year, and as part of the celebrations I’m curating a large-scale interactive public installation that will be housed in the foyer of Imperial College London. Our ambition is to juxtapose a century-old lab against a contemporary dry-lab, inviting the public to engage with future predictions from leaders in science, religion, the arts, politics, sport, philosophy and economics. The aim is to encourage them to share their own ideas about the future of medical science.
To help us inspire the public to think 2113, we’re inviting UK primary school pupils to enter a competition to exhibit their ideas about the future in the installation. I’m currently travelling up and down the country to deliver a series of workshops to 9-11 year-olds, introducing them to key MRC scientists and their important work. To do this I put together a comic book. Heroes of Health 1913 describes the founding of MRC and tells the stories of Sirs Henry Dale and Almroth Wright, and Dame Harriette Chick, whose pioneering research into the nervous system, immunisation and vitamin-deficiency disease, respectively, has changed our lives.
The comic also features a cut out game that helps pupils learn about diseases that were common 100 years ago. We’ve produced a series of short films — Science in Progress 2013 — about contemporary MRC scientists. Jimmy Bell, Wendy Bickmore, Clare Davy and Aldo Faisal introduce pupils to their research on what makes us fat, how genes are stored, cancer-causing viruses and how our brain works, respectively. Films will be made public during the installation. A comprehensive teacher’s pack explains how to use resources in the classroom to help pupils develop their competition entries.
Some schools are already well on their way to imagining the world in 2113. Here is a letter to the MRC’s Chief Executive, John Savill, written by a pupil from Brackenbury Primary School in West London:
In 100 years, I hope there will be a cure for heart disease and that cars could fly, but they would be cars that ran on batteries so it wouldn’t pollute the earth. I also think that there should be an easier way of giving vaccinations and blood tests, such as a machine. Medicine should be a bit nicer for children and there could be an invention that reads your mind to understand how your brain works.
I’m sure by the end of the project we’ll have a lot of ideas to send to MRC strategists.
The MRC Centenary Installation will run in the foyer space of Imperial College London from 4–14 April 2013.