Sheffield academics host exhibition to tackle taboo of early-life loss

11th December 2017

Exhibition is inspired by the University of Sheffield's research into the use of MRI in post-mortems following the tragedy of early life loss Exhibition hopes to make early-life loss more visible and explores what actually happens after a baby tragically dies Academics from the University of Sheffield, are this week, (5-14 December) hosting an exhibition in the city to challenge taboos surrounding still birth, miscarriage and sudden infant death syndrome.

According to stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands, 15 babies a day are stillborn or die within four weeks of birth in the UK. After decades of stagnation, the UK's stillbirth rate is starting to fall. However it remains higher than other comparable countries and much more can and should be done. In 2015, one in every 370 babies born in the UK died in the first four weeks of life and in around one in three stillbirths the exact reason for the baby's death is unclear and the death is described as 'unexplained'. Inspired by a research project, 'Start of' or 'End of' life led by the University of Sheffield and supported by the Economic Research Council, the exhibition examines professional and parental encounters with death at the very beginning of life. Dr Kate Reed, Reader in Medical Sociology at the University of Sheffield said: -The death of a child is something most people can't begin to comprehend, however here in the UK it is sadly more common than we think. However, people don't like talking about early-life loss, it's a subject that many are unsure how to approach. We hope this exhibition in Sheffield will challenge this view, as it is often something that parents actually really benefit from talking about. -We started the research in September 2015 with the aim of examining the experiences of early-life loss and the impact of medical imaging on paediatric post-mortem. The research has considered post-mortem in the broader context of life, loss and memorialisation and using this holistic approach, has examined professional and parental encounters with death at the very beginning of life. The exhibition has been curated by x-ray artist Hugh Turvey HonFRPS, sound artist, Justin Wiggan and Lee Simmons who produced the graphic design for the exhibition. The exhibition seeks to make the experience of early-life loss more visible and features a collection of work that challenges the taboos especially in relation to post-mortem. These include visual images, physical objects and sound installations, each sensitively exploring what happens when a baby dies from both parental and professional perspectives. At the heart of the exhibition is an acknowledgement that the death of a baby involves a simultaneous emergence and loss of personhood, which signifies both the beginning and end of life. This narrative runs throughout the exhibition and visitors are invited to identify this in the exhibits and to reflect on these themes. The exhibition will run 5-14 December at The Art House, 8 Backfields, Sheffield, S1 4HJ from 11am-4pm. Entry is free.

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