‘My Brain Diaries’ was a collaborative project between Headway Oxfordshire, poet Kelley Swain and the Joint Museums Community Engagement team in response to the Brain Diaries exhibition at the Museum of Natural History.
Headway is a charity which provides support and guidance to anyone affected by brain injury, along with their families and carers. They also work with the community to educate about the effects of brain damage. The Community Engagement Team have an on-going relationship with Headway which began over 5 years ago.
Group members were given an introduction to the Brain Diaries exhibition at their centre in Kennington, including a presentation on MRI scanning by Professor Stuart Clare. Over 4 weeks the group members then created visual poems, reflecting their own personal Brain Diary.
Participants created foam heads using words, images and painting, drawing on the now-disproven science of Phrenology, popular in the 1800s, where plaster heads were labeled with different ‘traits’ for different areas of the skull. All of the artwork heads are very personal, and some pieces, like ‘Ziggy Stardust’, showed a small transformation in the way participants related to their injury.
As that participant explained:
I painted it blue and there [were] two scars here [from] my accident, and I’ve got two scars on the top of my head, and I painted them red. I thought, this is a bit morbid, but then I thought, hang on, I’ll just pretend it’s Ziggy Stardust.
Another participant was able to shape some poems she’d written in hospital to fit with her piece, and others created pieces reflecting sight or hearing loss, and the incredible impact it has on their world.