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This image depicts multiple sclerosis (MS), showing a section of brain and revealing the changes that occur in this disease. There is an area of normal tissue, an area of inflammation (depicted by damaged myelin, blue and the presence of foamy macrophages, red cells) and finally the scar that is left once all the myelin is removed (shown by the circle of astrocytes, yellow cells).
It was created as part of ‘Multiple Sclerosis: the big knit’ a collaborative knitting science project to promote awareness and understanding of the disease MS by creating a woolly art installation. The installation consists of three tableaux each highlighting a different aspect of MS: the nature of the disease, the role of genetics and the impact of our environment on the disease.
Knitters from around the UK were invited to take part in the project, through our website, by knitting elements of the tableaux and sending then in to be included in the final installation. In addition to this open invitation we ran a series of events with knitting and community groups in the Cheltenham area to provide an opportunity for knitters to engage with scientists and discuss MS. Over 70 knitters contributed to the initial creation of the tableaux, between them knitting over 300 items including brain cells, DNA helices and sunshines.
This installation was created for The Times Cheltenham Science Festival 2011 to support the festival talk ‘MS’ held on Sunday 12 June. During the Festival (7–12 June) it was the centrepiece of a drop-in knitting corner where visitors to the festival could knit their own piece of science and be part of the tableaux.
The project aimed to connect people with science through the act of creating and via the social nature of knitting. In addition to this, the final artwork and its constituent parts act as excellent educational tools in their own right.
The MS: the big knit art installation will be exhibited at venues around the UK and additional knitting workshops are planned for the future. Please visit our website (www.immunology.org/msthebigknit) for details of these events.
Funding The project was organised and funded by the British Society for Immunology.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
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