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Vintage Medical students

Sights, Sounds and Stories: Manchester’s Medical Histories

Excite your senses.

The Museum of Medicine and Health delves into the wonderful world of eye and ear medicine through sight, sound and stories past, present and future. Discover how one woman established Manchester's first hospital for babies, and learn more about our own eyes and ears and how to look after them.

  • Look closer at your own sight and hearing health
  • Hear and witness health histories within the city of Manchester

On this page:


01. Sight

Optometry involves measuring eyesight, prescribing corrective lenses and detecting eye disease. Millions of eye tests are carried out by qualified optometrists and ophthalmic practitioners every year. They are trained to prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses, and to recognise abnormalities and conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma.

With the longest tradition of teaching optometry in the UK, The University of Manchester's staff and students have been caring for people's eyes for generations.

Furthermore, our strong links with the neighbouring Manchester Royal Eye Hospital enable our researchers to collaborate in developing new technology, diagnostics and treatments for eye health.

Look closer at the eye

Take a closer look at the anatomy of the eye

Why not test yourself? Can you remember the six important features described here?

Diagram of the eye

Parts of the eye diagram – text version

  • The iris is the coloured part of your eye. It has two muscles that open and close your pupil.
  • The retina is the lining inside the back of your eye. Light-sensitive cells on the retina, called rods and cones, change light into messages that your brain understands.
  • The optic nerve carries the messages from your retina to your brain.
  • The lens is clear and flexible. It changes shape to focus light onto your retina.
  • The curved cornea bends light into your eye. It's tough and clear like a windshield and protects your eye from dust.
  • The pupil is the hole in the middle of your iris. It changes size to let more or less light into your eye.‌

Draw your amazing eye

Grab a small mirror and take some time to look at your own amazing eye and draw it.

Draw document‌

Look closely and be proud of the colours in your iris.

Trick of the eye

Fix your gaze on the blue dot in the middle of the screen. After about a minute, the moving background disappears and is replaced by a stationary one. This new background will appear to swirl and move in the opposite direction to the previous one.

It is thought that this is caused by neurons in the visual parts of your brain getting used to the original pattern of motion, so that when you are presented with a stationary pattern, you see it as moving in the opposite direction.

Archive film: Capturing Manchester’s medical past

Step back in time

This amateur film from 1935 captures the visit of the Duchess of York, (later HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) to the Manchester Babies Hospital in Levenshulme. The hospital was renamed in her honour following this important visit.

The film was made by Dr F Reynolds, a local GP. With thanks to the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University for their assistance in sharing this footage.

Busy Hospital background

02. Sound

Learn more about hearing health through these activities.

Hearing health stories: Manchester Health and History

In June 2021, the Museum of Medicine and Health hosted a live online event with Dr Dalia Tsimpida and Dr Katherine Conroy. Our guests discussed the history of experiences of people with hearing loss and how health policy can make a positive impact on lives and communities. The event was recorded and has been split into four parts. They are available for everyone. We particularly welcome Key Stage 4 pupils to engage with this content and the other resources on this webpage. All the films have BSL interpretation.

Hearing Care for ALL virtual gallery

The Hearing Care for ALL virtual gallery is a project that helps promote hearing health during the life course.

Organised on behalf of the Institute for Health Policy and Organisation (IHPO), with the generous support of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Hearing Forum, and the Coalition for Global Hearing Health.


British Sign Language, or BSL, is one of the more than 300 different signed languages in the world today.

Learn some BSL signs by taking the quiz.

Video: Hearing aids from the past

The Museum of Medicine and Health has a collection of hearing aids spanning over 200 years.

Discover one in detail here with Enrika Pavlovskyte, a student on the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies course at Manchester.

Video: How experts test a baby's hearing

Ever wondered how the experts test a baby’s hearing?

Find out more with this short animation:

ManCAD Podcast Series

Explore these short, sweet, informative and interesting podcasts covering topics such as COVID-19 and the auditory system.


Contact us to discuss any of our festival events.

Social media

Twitter: @ManMedMuseum

General enquiries