Have you ever heard of an Italian surgeon called Leonardo Fioravanti? I was interested to read an account of him doing some impromptu surgery while on a walk near the Tunisian coastal town of Mahdia. He was walking with a Spanish friend of his who somehow found himself in a fight with a soldier. The fight ended badly for the Spaniard, as the soldier’s sword sliced into his face and the poor man’s nose dropped into the sand. Fioravanti came to the rescue, picking the nose up and holding it in his hand. ‘I pissed on it’, he tells us, emptying his bladder to wash the sand off. He stuck the nose back onto his friend’s face and bandaged him up. When he took the bandages off, he promises us, the nose was attached again.
My January has been consumed working on a book about modern transplant surgery (that’s from the 1660s to the present day – the episode above is from almost 100 years earlier even than that). I don’t know if I’m allowed to say too much about the book just yet, but working on it marks the start of a new focus for me as I reengage with my cultural history research in 2017.
And this engagement is reflected in some of the project Smart Docs is working on. Since 2012, Smart Docs has been helping its clients and collaborators to use the medium of film in a way that responds to their professional and institutional priorities. More recently, I’ve been thinking about using film in research methods. Film can be (and is in many disciplines) used as evidence, a way of arresting and referring to particular kinds of data, and, in the humanities, a text to be interpreted as well as a means of interpretation. I’ve been devising and teaching sessions on Imperial College’s Masters in Surgical Education where we’re trying some of these ideas out with surgeons exploring their craft.
I’m also working on an exciting project at the V&A – Encounters on the Shop Floor – about the knowledge of the maker. The project is about tacit, embodied knowledge, and we’re using film to both document our progress and as a means to express things that are difficult to put into words. The project is in its infancy at the moment. So we’ll see how that develops.
And, if you want to think more about how to use film in research or in any professional capacity, as long as it falls into our remit of academia, cultural institutions, and healthcare, get in touch!