Standing on the shoulders of giants

Want to promote diversity in your institution but don’t know how? Why not turn to Harvard Medical School for inspiration:

The walls were entirely bare. Thirty-one oil portraits of medical and scientific leaders that had made the room distinctive were gone. Images of Harvey Cushing, Soma Weiss, George Thorn, Eugene Braunwald — and other historic figures — had been removed.

Before:

After:

It seems the modern way to welcome women and minorities into organisations is to wipe the achievements of white men from the institutional memory and pretend they never existed. Not that the technique is new, of course:

Back to the article:

Unlike disputed portraits and statuary related to slavery and the Civil War, these men made contributions to medicine and research that stand up well to current scrutiny.

Yes but you don’t understand: they were white and male and therefore Nazis (probably).

Removing all the historic amphitheater portraits — leaving bare walls in their place for the past year — won’t advance diversity. What might? An array of art that reflects today’s rapidly changing physician leadership, while recognizing essential but less male-dominated health-related professions, such as nursing and social work.

Let’s not pander to minorities by removing portraits of exceptional white male physicians but instead we should include art depicting run-of-the-mill social workers. Yes, we wouldn’t want to pander now, would we?

Perhaps a rotating subset of older portraits displayed alongside newly commissioned works — with the reasons for the choices conveyed in historically informed commentary.

This man was a pioneer of brain surgery. This women is…well, a woman. And she’s brown.

Gender and ethnicity must cease being barriers to positions and recognition.

Is that the case now? Is there any minority or woman who you believe ought to have their portrait displayed alongside those which were removed, but was not due to their ethnicity or gender? If there was, I rather suspect you would have named them.

As that day approaches, public portraiture should be reconfigured to promote pride in institutional history, education about the difficult path to progress, and a welcoming environment for today’s diverse communities.

In other words, public portraiture should reflect participation not excellence. This doesn’t sound very much like progress.

Liked it? Take a second to support Tim Newman on Patreon!
Share

12 thoughts on “Standing on the shoulders of giants

  1. In other words, public portraiture should reflect participation not excellence

    Public portraiture: just another weapon to remake the world according to the deranged imaginations of the inadequate.

    A columnist in the Times earlier this week complained that immigration to the UK ought to “reflect modern Britain”. I asked if by that she meant it ought to be 82% white. The comment didn’t last…

  2. MC: “A columnist in the Times earlier this week complained that immigration to the UK ought to “reflect modern Britain”. I asked if by that she meant it ought to be 82% white. The comment didn’t last…”

    It could not be clearer that their vision of modern Britain doesn’t include the native people. They wish to replace us.

  3. “Perhaps a rotating subset of older portraits displayed alongside newly commissioned works — with the reasons for the choices conveyed in historically informed commentary.”

    There’s at least a couple of jobs in there. The janitor’s team can go in a course about safely handling and storing historic artefacts, and we need someone to head up the historic portrait rotational committee, the disadvantaged minority commissioning process, and to write the commentary.

  4. ” public portraiture should be reconfigured to promote pride in institutional history ”
    This being done by removing all portraits of people from the history of the institution.

  5. Semmelweis Ignaz: saved women from death by puerperal fever(Streptococcus A septicaemia) when he noted a high rate among women attended by medical students who came straight from the mortuary as opposed to midwives. He was vilified within his lifetime for proposing basic hygienic measures like handwashing and clean over garments. There should be a shrine to him!

  6. At least outfits like the Khmer Rouge and ISIS weren’t so tediously boring with their cultural destruction. They just burned/exploded everything, so at least their was some showmanship involved.

    [ vomits ]

  7. Harvard admitted its first female medical students in 1945. About 40 years after UK schools.
    So there’s a shortage of alumni, never mind distinguished alumni.

  8. My grandmother was in the second batch of medical students at Edinburgh, around 1910 ish, which was the first university to admit female trainees. (England was a few years behind.)
    That did not end discrimination. Women doctors were forbidden to work night shifts until about 1970.
    However, countering historical discrimination by belittling the contributions of men is idiotic.
    If your life is possibly about to be saved I doubt you get choosy about the sex of your saviour.

  9. If they aren’t appropriate enough to be remembered by hanging a portrait on a wall, when does the insititution stop using the knowledge gained by their research?

    Or has that already happened?

  10. “Or has that already happened?”

    The original science and technology was acquired and monetised by the 1%ers way back in time when they were first approved for market use. The pictures of the mad professor inventors may have come down off the classroom wall but the beneficial owners of the industry players that resulted from the cutting edge and leading scientific breakthroughs has not changed in recent times.

Comments are closed.