Meeting Point: Thackray Medical Museum

Artist Irene Brown and volunteer © Jonathan Turner

Artist Irene Brown and volunteer © Jonathan Turner

View to The Past utilised digital installation to allow visitors to have a unique experience of the original Thackray Medical Museum site

Watch a video of View to The Past

  • Facts

    Title View to The Past
    Historical Sites Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds
    Lead Artists Irene Brown
    Artwork Digital Installation
    Partners / Stakeholders Thackray Museum, Arts&Heritage and Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund
    Budget £8000.00
    Development 5 months
    Dates 12 September 2016
  • Description


    Irene Brown and volunteer at Thackray Medical Museum © Jonathan Turner

    Irene Brown and volunteer at Thackray Medical Museum © Jonathan Turner


    The project is part of the Meeting Point project led by Arts&Heritage, which saw nine new contemporary art installations at four museums in the North East and five museums in Yorkshire during 2016. Meeting Point is funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund.

    Irene Brown worked with the Thackray Medical Museum to create a set of virtual reality viewers which visitors looked through to see impressions of what the museum building looked like in the past, when it served as a workhouse and a hospital.

    Museum staff and volunteers appeared in some of the scenes dressed in historic costumes, portraying characters from the museum’s past.

    Lauren Ryall-Stockton, Museum Curator, explains: “Visitors to the museum often ask us about the building itself and Irene’s work will help people to really experience the history of the museum in a whole new way.”

    Thackray Medical Museum explores the world of medicine and is housed in the former Leeds Union Workhouse. The purpose-built workhouse opened in 1861 and served as a workhouse for the city’s poor until 1925 when it was renamed as St James’s Hospital.

    “I’ve used open source technology to allow visitors to see the spaces where they’re standing, but as they might have appeared during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It will reveal hidden ghosts from the past such as nurses who worked in the hospital and inmates who lived in the workhouse.” Artist Irene Brown



    Irene Brown and volunteer © Jonathan Turner

    Irene Brown and volunteer © Jonathan Turner


    • To reinterpret and find a creative way to tell the story of the Thackray Medical Museum site
    • To Engage staff and volunteers in the commissioning process


    Arts&Heritage supported the nine participating museums throughout the process, sharing knowledge of presenting contemporary art projects and commissions in non-traditional art spaces.

    A networking event between the participating museums and 40 artists from across the UK took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and visits to artists’ studios were arranged. Museum teams also met with peers at other properties to learn how they successfully delivered contemporary art projects at their museums and heritage sites.

    All museums developed their own Artist’s Brief. Following the networking event artists were invited to send in an expression of interest to museums that interested therm.

    Three artists were shortlisted by each museum to draw up a more detailed proposal and were paid £500 each.


    Information to follow


    £8,000 to include all materials, travel and installation costs

    £500 paid to each of 3 artists shortlisted

  • Audience Engagement


    • The commission was used to raise the profile of Thackray Medical Museum to the local audience and to attract new audiences
    • To attract contemporary visual artists to reinterpret the Thackray Medical Museum site and collection
    • To develop and build a regional and national audience for the Meeting Point project commissions

    A marketing campaign for the Meeting Point was led and delivered by Emma Pybus and David Brookbanks.

    The Meeting Point project was documented by Jonathan Turner and Peter Spence


    Public workshop © Jonathan Turner

    Public workshop © Jonathan Turner


    As part of the project, Irene Brown ran a series of free public workshops during August 2016 which people could attend to learn more about the technology she used in her work and how to use it.

    Full details can be found on the Thackray Medical Museum website,

  • Artist Information

    Artist Irene Brown at public workshops © Jonathan Turner

    Artist Irene Brown at public workshops © Jonathan Turner


    Irene Brown lectures Fine Art at Newcastle University. She specialises in site-specific installations and permanently sited public art. Working methods include sculpture, photography and video and artworks often include kinetic elements, lighting and optical illusions. Irene has over twenty year’s experience of combining a senior academic teaching and research role with a distinguished career as a site-specific public artist and installationist.

    Current research and practice is focused on the history of science, in particular, wonder and visual display, investigating the threshold between aesthetic and scientific realms.  Influences are many and eclectic but centre strongly on cabinets of curiosities, museum collections and her own extensive collection of artefacts.

    Irene Brown recently collaborated with Arts&Heritage on The Gallery Of Wonder On Tour.