An art history project to bring the story of the redevelopment of Royal Sussex County Hospital, from its 19th Century beginnings to now, has been conducted with support from a BU academic.
Dr Carina Westling, Senior Lecturer in cross-platform media at BU has recently announced the completion of Crucible, an oral history art project. Carina is also Creative Director for the Nimbus Group who were commissioned by the 3T Organisation to work on the installation in 2018.
The Crucible installation is part of the 3Ts redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, transforming this 19th century hospital into a spacious, modern facility equipped to meet the demands of healthcare in the 21st century. Crucible can be found on the ground floor of the hospital, due to open to the public in April 2023.
Crucible is the result of extensive research and community consultations, supported by Heritage Lottery and Arts Council funding, to gather the oral histories and narratives. This was an essential part of the project to ensure that a range of voices and perspectives could be represented within the mural and interactive installation.
Dr Carina Westling said, “To embed the process of developing Crucible in its historical and community context, we worked closely with multiple stakeholder groups, each of which required unique approaches. We commissioned Strike A Light for their considerable expertise in oral history gathering and artist Daniel Locke for his exemplary work with diverse communities for art research. For digital development, we worked with Surface Impression, who have deep experience in design for the third sector. Our work with the local NHS Trust was mediated by Anna Barnes, who also assisted us in the quite detailed heritage research we needed to incorporate.
“The challenge was then to present the synthesis in such a way that it appeals to the broadest audience possible, at times when they might be facing all sorts of challenges. A lot of thought went into the project at all these junctions, and I hope the result will stand the test of time."
The name was chosen as the work reflects on hospitals as ‘crucibles’ for social change through engaging with the history of hospital architecture, technology, professions and practices in hospital care. In addition to the mural, there is an interactive installation with oral histories from communities whose lives were touched by the hospital, and historical archive materials that visitors can access via their mobile devices or the display screen.
Daniel Locke, the featured artist, has designed the mural as a life-size palindromic cartoon that allows visitors to travel through time when they walk the corridor between the main reception atrium and a Grade 2 listed Chapel; the only part of the old hospital building dating back to 1828 that will be preserved. The remainder of the Barry Building, which is the oldest part of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, is the oldest still operating hospital building in the UK at the time of writing, but will ultimately be demolished
Featured within the 15-meter-long life-size mural is 200 years of the hospital’s history, depicting the experiences and stories of past staff, patients and people who interacted with the hospital in some way. The accompanying interactive kiosk gives more detail about the characters within the mural. It is hoped that the mural will resonate with visitors to the hospital as they process whatever feelings they experience during their visit.
Projects like Crucible are essential for helping creative and cultural industries to thrive by encouraging communities to understand their cultural heritage and to support creative projects, like this one, to grow and develop. You can find out more about the work Bournemouth University is doing in this area on the BU website.
Visit https://thecrucible.org.uk/ to find out more about the project.