Rebecca Whiteley



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Having studied English Literature as an undergraduate, Rebecca moved to Art History for postgraduate study. Following her MA at UCL, Rebecca worked for a year as a curatorial intern at the Royal Library, Royal Collection, before returning to academic study. Her PhD was also undertaken in the History of Art Department, UCL, supervised by Professor Mechthild Fend and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. During her studies Rebecca won the Roy Porter Essay Prize administered by the Society for the Social History of Medicine, won an IPS research scholarship to the Huntington Library, California, edited the 2017 issue of the departmental journal Object, taught on various undergraduate courses including her own museums-based course on histories of print and knowledge, and worked as a curatorial assistant at the UCL Art Museum.

Following her PhD, Rebecca worked briefly as a cataloguer of prints at the British Library before being awarded the Shreeve Fellowship in the History of Medicine at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, University of Manchester. Alongside her research into the printed and medical collections at the library, Rebecca ran an academic conference and numerous public events, taught on courses in material culture, introductory art history and the history of the book, and wrote her own course on visual histories of the early modern body. She has also supervised research projects for the BSc in Humanities, Philosophy & Law, Imperial College London.

Her current postdoctoral fellowship, begun in 2023, is funded by the British Academy.

Research interests

Rebecca works on the intersections of visual and material culture, the history of medicine, and social history. She has expertise in working with books as material objects and, in particular, with book illustrations. She has also worked with printed images, paper mobiles such as flap prints and models, and medical teaching collections in various media. As a PhD candidate, Rebecca worked on early modern visual cultures of pregnancy, drawing connections between medical book illustrations and wider cultures of medicine, the body, and gender.

As a postdoc, Rebecca has moved to explore the nineteenth century and has developed an interest in material culture methodologies. Looking at different kinds of objects: from flap prints to obstetric models to medical paintings, Rebecca has been exploring what a study of objects can tell us about histories of medicine, the body and education. In particular, Rebecca has been working on using such objects to focus on histories of under-studied groups, including midwives, pregnant people and women medical students.

Rebecca’s current project draws together different bodies of visual culture: medical illustrations, satirical print, and pornography, to trace a history of medicine and sex in the nineteenth century. Through visual and material analysis of these sources in conversation, she seeks to understand how both medical professionals and lay people managed the problematics of medicine as a profession that was constantly slipping into the improper or the sexually suspect.


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