"But when the Florence Nightingale museum in London reopens after a £1.4m rebuild on her birthday next month, an installation by artist Susan Stockwell will remind visitors that the pioneering nurse actually lived on for another half century until 1910 – and spent most of that time in her bed.
"For the sculpture, funded by the Guy's and St Thomas's hospital charity as a gift to the museum, Stockwell has taken a Victorian brass bed and made a ghostly mattress pressed down by the weight of an invisible figure out of thousands of furled pages from books.
"The pages convey the fact that though Nightingale was in bed, she was not inactive. She wrote more than 200 books, pamphlets and articles, including pioneering work on hospital planning, and her 1860 Notes on Nursing, regarded as the foundation of modern nursing."[...]
"There is a final joke hidden in the bed which may not have amused Nightingale, a woman of sharp wit but apparently without a frivolous bone in her body. Stockwell had hoped to make the mattress from old copies of Nightingale's books, but the idea proved too expensive. Instead, while the outer layers are from Notes on Nursing and Cecil Woodham Smith's classic biography, the core is made from 700 copies of Mills & Boon romances Stockwell bought on eBay, including hospital romances in which fragile nurses are eventually crushed against the manly chests of handsome doctors – as Nightingale certainly never was."
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