Journal article

A Tale of Two Objects: Electro-Convulsive Therapy, History, and the Politics of Museum Display

James Bradley

Health and History | Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine | Published : 2020


This essay offers a biography of two Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) machines: the Bini-Cerletti machine used for the very first shock treatments and now housed in the History of Medicine Museum, Rome; and a machine from Adelaide based upon H.M. Birch's original design and used to give the first shock treatments in Australia. In discussing these objects, I take a number of steps. Firstly, a short history of ECT introduces the major debates around the therapy and its history. Secondly, the machines are positioned within this history. Thirdly, the machines 'function within the galleries is discussed. Finally, I ask how these objects might be presented in a way that better reflects their histo..

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