Though many of us may feel a bit reticent about closely examining the subtleties of our own urine, we are all familiar with how this dynamic liquid can be an indication of our wider health. Whether it’s pregnancy, medical tests or simply a sign of dehydration, urine is still essential for understanding the body in health and disease.
As an unstable liquid that can be easily physically and chemically examined, urine has been central to the diagnosis of disease for thousands of years. Whilst we might be surprised to hear a healthcare professional today declaring our urine “pale as the reduced juice of meat”, or (more alarmingly) “deep blue as of very dark wine”, we still expect them to make observations about our bodily functions that are often dependent on sight, sound and touch. Perhaps they are not consulting urine wheels, or holding a matula (a glass flask designed for examining urine) up to the window for a closer look, but they may be drawing conclusions using the colour chart of a Dipstick urine test.
In February, the Historic Reading Room of the John Rylands Library featured a pop-up collection encounter displaying an eclectic selection of items from our special collections and some fascinating objects from the Museum of Medicine and Health (MMH). From 16th-century books and manuscripts to an early 20th-century urine sugar testing kit, we had some great discussions with visitors about how urine diagnosis has changed over time. Some highlights are showcased below for your virtual enjoyment!
With thanks Caroline Hall, a wonderful co-presenter, and Steph Seville for kindly lending a number of objects from MMH for the day. Find out more about the Wellcome-funded project that facilitated this event here. Caroline has posted about the event from a Visitor Engagement perspective on the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health’s Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) blog here.