A life-sized game of operation to educate people about women’s health
Product, 2 months
Find a way for audience members to engage with a tired museum collection while having one key takeaway about healthcare.
A giant, life-size version of the classic “Operation” board game which featured a Desi woman as the patient. Further interaction revealed information about the ways in which blood donations from Black and Brown women played a special role in women’s health.
Research and development
The Emerge Festival aims to bring galleries and museums to more diverse audiences, especially younger people who would never usually walk through their doors. They do this by hosting an annual weekend take-over of as many museums and galleries in London as possible. Each venue hosts a specific interactive event.
This meant that our event had to be:
- Drop in to account for open-access tickets
- Be completed in under 10 minutes
- Be accessible to a wide range of people
- Cannot contain any messy materials which would damage the hospital’s permanent collection
- Target 16-24 year olds
The old operating theatre itself is Europe’s oldest surviving medical theatre, was the perfect setting for this project as it only operated on female patients in the 1830s. We definitely wanted to find a way to incorporate this into our project.
Multiple visits to the collection
…to interview visitors, collection managers and observe people. It was clear that female bodies was a huge focus for the collection, and we thought this was a unique pull from the venue which we wanted to highlight during the festival.
Linking the museum collection to women’s health
We read lots of books, articles and sites in order to link some of the key aspects of the collection to the project. One thing which linked all the operations to every single person was blood. Blood is used in a lot of transfusions for operations, and had a lot of complex health implications.
Initial research from NHS Blood and Transport, who manage all public donations of blood in the UK, stated that:
- 67% was used to treat medical conditions including anaemia, cancer and blood disorders, such as sickle cell.
- 27% was used in surgery, including cardiac surgery and emergency surgery
- 6% was used to treat blood loss after childbirth
We wanted to focus on these facts and tailor them to women of colour.
Collaborating with experienced 3D makers
To produce a prototype from fully recycled materials. We had a very low cost budget, and wanted to ensure we made the most of it as possible, by collaborating with makers who had true upcycling expertise. This also allowed us to reach a wider audience by interviewing them about their knowledge of women’s health and experience in museums. We also got really inventive with copper tape, and old suitcase and some acrylic offcuts to make the core game components.
Bold illustrations with a human focus.
One thing missing from a lot of medical diagrams was a person’s agency. We wanted to bring that back as the main focus of the work. For this, we used a cross section of a person’s body, while also showing their face, hair, piercings, and things which make them an individual.
“It’s astonishing to see how much donated blood goes to blood loss after childbirth – it’s literally saving two lives at once!”
VICTORIA AND ORI, 21
“Can we keep it?”
MONICA, EVENTS MANAGER, OLD OPERATING THEATRE
“Oh, this reminds me – I was going to register to give blood the other day but I forgot. Thanks for reminding me, this was so fun!”
Many diversity and inclusion projects focus on celebrating external differences in people’s bodies, but rarely do we focus on the things we don’t see, like the clinical impacts of health and wellbeing. Taking a game which had a glossy and different exterior acted as a good pull for exploring internal health themes.
- 2 women signing up to donate blood on the spot – with the potential to help 18 adults each year
- A reusable operation game in the museum’s permanent collection which is used for children’s visits
At On the Mend, we are honest about our successes and our failures. We know that we can never fix every single problem with a single interaction. Below are some of our key reflections, and things we would change if we could repeat this work:
Manage queues! – Many other venues were fully booked nearby, meaning that floods of crowds were heading to a venue which had a 30 person limit. A lot of the time, people had arrived at the venue to discover that they had queued up for a 10 minute activity. We should have accounted for this and provided a way to manage queues.
Include a QR code or some means to make signing up for blood donations quicker and easier. Lots of people asked about signing up but would be dissuaded from having to search about blood donations on their phones. We should have had some physical and digital material at hand to help with this.
Highlight the underlying concept when introducing the game Our event was a pop up straight after the live operation demonstration. In the introductory speech, we should have made clear that we were focusing on highlighting what happens to blood donations and how important the role of women of colour was. This might have grabbed the attention of those more interested in healthcare equality, but less interested in a game.
Include two facilitators! This event was facilitated by one person, meaning that a lot of the time Sophia had to speak to people about health awareness while also managing the mechanics of the game and making sure no one was accidentally damaging the venue! It was a lot for one person to handle and meant that we couldn’t focus as much on the quality of the health information conveyed.
People and press
Illustration: Sophia Luu
Visual Concepts and Storyboarding: Mathilda Della Torre
Electronics: Minh Huynh
Woodwork: Minh Huynh and Sophia Luu
Research and Marketing: Rashmi Shankar
Photography: Michael Tigchelaar
Partners: Emerge Festival and the Old Operating Theatre. Special thanks to Svetlana and Monica.
Special Thanks to Josie at Machines Room and Peter from Solowood Recylcing for helping us sourcing materials and prop space!