Event Review: BLOODSUCKERS! at Thackray Medical Museum

Throughout the last week of October visitors to Thackray Medical Museum were able to enjoy a host of special activities and talks as part of their Halloween themed ‘BLOODSUCKERS’ event, a collaboration with the Hematopolitics Project.

One of the highlights of the event was the Blood Tour, where a member of Thackray’s education team took visitors on a tour of the museum, sharing fascinating stories of the cultural impact of blood throughout the ages. The history of the term ‘blue-blooded’ was explained, prompting reflection on the upper-classes use of blood as a way to racially and socially distinguish themselves, and there was a discussion on how blood features prominently in historical Chinese medicine as an indicator of overall health.

Elsewhere in the Museum, there was the opportunity to take part in a blood trail, guiding you through the blood related items in Thackray’s permanent collection by answering questions and following clues. You learnt about the importance of bloodletting throughout history, seeing traditional bleeding bowls, as well as meeting Thackray’s resident live leeches! Moving into the 20th Century, you learnt about the establishment of the modern blood transfusion service during WWII, revolutionising the surgical field, and establishing blood banks as vital public health resources. This was emphasised by a wonderful display of blood donation posters from across the world (pictured).

Two blood donation posters side by side. The first shows two people with brown skin clasping hands, they are both wearing red and the text 'be a hero' is shown over a blue background. The second image shows a cartoon panda with a red heart on its back within a white circle on a red background, with foreign language text above the panda.

Taking place during the autumn half term, many of the activities were kid-friendly, including making ‘blood bracelets’, Origami characters, and the ‘Beat the Bloodsucker’ game (pictured), where families had to decide whether facts about blood were true or false to avoid getting bitten by the Bloodsucker!

Two images side by side of tables laid out with materials and equipment for children's activities.

Whilst a family friendly event, it also prompted serious reflection on how medical and cultural meanings of blood have always been interwoven throughout history. An example of this being the letting and drinking of blood, historically believed to offer a range of medical benefits, but also a key feature of pre-battle rituals, with royalty and prominent public figures often taking part, giving blood a much wider political meaning.

To stay informed about our upcoming collaborations with Thackray Medical Museum, and receive updates on our ongoing research, follow our twitter page @hematopolitics and email hematopolitics@leeds.ac.uk to join our mailing list.