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'Our Health Journeys' - the online museum showcasing our healthcare history

Image by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

'Our Health Journeys' is an online museum that showcases New Zealand’s unique medical and health heritage. It is hoped it will educate and inform people, as well as inspiring some to choose the health professions as a career.


From ground breaking cardiac surgery to the influence of tuberculosis screening on our Covid-19 response, a new website seeks to showcase New Zealand’s unique medical and health heritage.


“There are amazing stories in New Zealand of innovation in the health sciences,” says Dale Bailey, one of the Trustees of the Auckland Medical Museum Trust (AMMT) which is behind the website.


“They are stories of people coping with adversity, creating solutions, and finding good ways of working together as a society.”


For almost a decade the Trust has been working to create a permanent museum to showcase and celebrate New Zealand’s medical history.


“It is amazing how resonant those stories are today. They really do connect,” he says.

Mask On by Erin Kim; one of the paintings showcased on the Our Health Journeys website.


The stories are now being told on the virtual pages of 'Our Health Journeys’ – an online museum.


“The idea was to link the past with the future, identifying parallels to the past, making connections, telling our stories, sharing our science and celebrating trailblazing people.”


The Trust’s first project was ‘Brave Hearts – the New Zealand Cardiac Story,’ a mobile interactive exhibition.


They then began work to create what they initially thought would be a bricks and mortar medical museum.


When the pandemic arrived the Trust realised there were huge possibilities in creating a virtual museum, making exhibits available to visitors from across the country, even from around the world.


“It's a jumping off place for further discovery" says Dale. "It might be a young person’s first experience of medical heritage and we want to encourage them to do a much more deep-dive.”


There are a series of stories that link Covid-19 to New Zealand’s experiences during the Spanish Flu epidemic a century ago.

George and Elsie Rickard; George and Frank. Photographs courtesy of the Rickard family.


Just like my Poppa’ by Beca general manager Andrea Rickard tells of how two of her great-grandparents were lost to the 1918 Spanish Flu. They left behind two small children, one of them was Andrea’s grandfather Frank.


“I always look at that photo and think ‘look at that tiny, little, boy whose parents died not long after that photo was taken,” says Andrea.


“I think that is really important to learn from the past. What if we had good quality vaccination programs then? Things would have been very different.”


“We live in a very interesting world in which you have so much influence from social media and underground media and communication channels that create so much uncertainty and so much conflict,” says Andrea.


“This is a really simple message that I am trying to get out there, that people die if we do not take advantage of the quality healthcare that we have available to us.”

Isolation by Erin Kim


The site includes contributions from artists like Erin Kim, an arts and design student at the University of Auckland.


'There is no place like home' explores their feelings of isolation during the 2020 lockdown.


"Having my art and story displayed in a virtual museum means so much to me and I'm honored to be a part of it.”

'Island Cinderella’s 275 Lockdown' is a first-hand account by university student Lola Afeaki of her experiences in Mangere during the first lockdown.


“We saw that our Pacific students were dropping out of high school because doing school online was hard. And University students were dropping out and finding jobs so they could provide for their families,” she says.


"Having the opportunity to have my story on the website means that hopefully Pasifika students can relate to me. As hard as it is you keep moving forward. There is always help.”


The stories and artworks are part of an effort to ensure the museum resonates with younger audiences in 2022.


“We wanted it to be contemporary, but draw on our heritage. So the look and feel is very important. A key audience is young people, so we wanted to make it look good,” says Dale.


"The idea was to link the past with the future, identifying parallels to the past, making connections, telling our stories, sharing our science and celebrating trailblazing people."

Dale Bailey -  Auckland Medical Museum Trustee



The Trust was established in 2014 and three years later it staged its first exhibition, Brave Hearts, which showcased New Zealand’s contribution to cardiac research and clinical care.


After this they focused on creating a museum that would gather stories from across the country, including from medical collections housed in many regional museums.


“We became really conscious that ideas from the heritage of our medical and health history were being forgotten and yet they had real relevance in our contemporary space.


“That has really shaped our thinking. The website needs to look great and it needs to be modern; so we can bring ideas from past experiences to help us going forward,” Dale says.

Photo by Nick Eagles


The Trust received a grant of $9,999 from the ANZ Staff Foundation to help develop the website.


“It allowed us to develop the basic structure, to get some confidence that we were on the right track,” says Dale.


“When we applied for major funding from the Lotteries Board the ANZ grant allowed us to show there were community groups that had really supported our vision and thought it was a great concept.”


ANZ Staff Foundation Chair David Bricklebank says “there is a lot of creativity and innovation in medicine and public health and we are pleased to be able to help the Trust bring these stories to life.”


The Trust has plans to continue expanding the range of stories it tells on the website.


“This is a really vital part of New Zealand society,” says Dale. “So by shining a light on these stories and the people working in this sector we feel that can just open it up as a possibility of thinking of it as a career possibility.”


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