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In sickness and in health: life and death in the Western Suburbs

This collaborative progam will have a range of outcomes over the next two years. Freshwater Bay Museum, Subiaco Museum, Nedlands Library Local Studies Collection and the Grove Community History Library will together offer events, exhibitions (both on-line and in-situ) and talks to engage their communities in looking at and thinking about the history of  public health. These suburbs housed many health related institutions, from home based maternity hospitals to larger facilities, some now closed, others still operating. They also housed many pharmacies, the Karrakatta cemetery and the site a joint sewerage disposal facility.

Western Australia’s Health Act 1911 is now over 100 years old. It was passed when many of the modern concepts of health were unknown. The legislation is based on theories of public health that linked dirt and disease. The work of pharmacists was at first unregulated and stories of ‘quacks’ and their potions abound. Our joint program will examine the ways in which Western Australia’s health legislation has shaped our urban environment.  It will cover many aspects of life and death, from the time of the bubonic plague to a period when more complex issues face society today such as lifestyle issues of obesity and drug addiction.

The program includes:

  • An exhibition at Subiaco Museum –  Inspector of Nuisances
  • An on-line exhibition, Poisons and Potions, developed by Freshwater Bay Museum
  • A program of talks at the Nedlands Library
  • Watch our website for the latest news of events. Contact us if you have ideas for events and speakers.

Poisons, Pills and Potions

This online exhibition from Freshwater Bay Museum reflects the long tradition of pharmacies in Claremont and in Western Australia more broadly. Our collection houses many objects, including tools and bottles related to the practice of pharmacy since early settlement in the area. The exhibition puts these objects in the wider context of theories of health and disease and the history of medicine and pharmacy.

Pharmacy has a long history, with the knowledge of Aboriginal people going back more than 40,000 years and passed down in stories from generation to generation. It is only more recently that Aboriginal pharmacopaeia is being recognised and documented. The exhibition looks at ideas and practices, the early stories of quacks and their remedies and the many ways in which childhood problems and adult issues were addressed. It also documents the growing regulation of the industry, the provision of training for pharmacists and the explosion in drug development in the twentieth century. Using advertisements, oral histories, collection images and video, the exhibition is an important part of the collaborative program In sickness and in health: life and death in the Western Suburbs’.

www.westernsuburbs.org