List of Museums Featured in Anatomical Theatre

Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences : Birmingham, Alabama
The earliest recorded donation to what became the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences was an ou-of-date apothecary scale given in 1946 to the University of Alabama and its Medical Center in Birmingham. Three-dimensional objects were given throughout the decades and the Museum was officially established in 1981.

Today the Museum has over 4,000 objects including hundreds of wet specimens preserved under the direction of pathologist Dr. William Boyd, who wintered in Birmingham during the mid-20th century. Other treasured collection pieces are nineteen wax pathological specimens by London sculptor Joseph Towne and purchased by Dr. Josiah Nott in 1860 for the first medical college of Alabama. From the donated collections of Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, after whom the Reynolds Historical Library is named, are eleven rare anatomical manikins of the 15th to 17th centuries.

Dedicated to collecting medical-related artifacts used primarily in the southeastern United States, the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences cares for many significant pieces developed and/or used by health care professionals as teaching tools or for patient care in the state and specifically the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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Museum of Anatomical Waxes “Luigi Cattezneo” (Museo Delle Cere Anatomiche “Luigi Cattaneo”): Bologna, Italy
Museum of Anatomical Waxes “Luigi Cattazneo” (Museo Delle Cere Anatomiche “Luigi Cattaneo”) houses a collection of 19th-century anatomic wax models by the Florentine Clemente Susini (1757–1814) and by Bolognese modelers, most notably Giuseppe Astorri (1785­1852) and Cesare Bettini (1801–1855). Francesco Mondini (1786–1844), Luigi Calori (1807–1896) and Cesare Taruffi (1821–1902) were professors in this period. The museum is representative of a significant historic period of the Bolognese School, when teachers of anatomy, in addition to requesting wax models of normal morphology, had begun to turn their attention to the variations, malformations, abnormalities, and morphological alterations caused by different pathologies. Whenever possible the wax models, of great educational value, are displayed alongside the preserved anatomical specimen of the case under examination as well as the drawings in print, thus providing a full picture of the work method of the anatomists of that time. The museum is under the direction of Professor Alessandro Ruggeri.

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Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum, or "Narrenturm" (Pathologisch-anatomisches Bundesmuseum): Vienna, Austria
The Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum (Pathologisch-Anatomisches Bundesmuseum) was founded in 1796 under Emperor Franz I as a museum of the Pathologic-Anatomical Institute in Vienna, Austria. Its collection features Maceration Preparations (human and animal dry preparations of bones and other body parts with pathological changes, one of the oldest types of preparations); Wet Preparations (human and animal cadaveric parts with pathological changes, preserved in formaldehyde); Moulages (castings of pathological body parts in wax or paraffin); and Devices (old and new medical devices illustrating specific diseases). The collection also includes medical coins and stamps as well as trade insignia of the medical professions.

The museum is located at the so-called Madhouse Tower (Narrenturm), featured as the residence of the insane Antonio Salieri in the movie “Amadeus.” The madhouse tower was built under Emperor Josef II in 1784. Isidore Canevale was its planner and architect, but he also had to follow ideas and conceptions of Dr. Joseph von Quarin, managing director of the hospital. The building constructed was used as Vienna’s first psychiatric hospital. Since 1971 the Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum has been located at the madhouse tower, and since 1993 the complete building has been used as a museum. The madhouse tower is a historical building under public custody. It is owned by the University of Vienna.

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Gordon Museum : London, England
The Gordon Museum was originally a collection of pathological specimens demonstrating all aspects of disease. These are found on the galleries, which are on two levels that surround each of the four bays. There are approximately ten thousand specimens arranged, mainly by organ, into various sub-collections. Some specimen collections are organized specifically for pathology exams and are linked to interactive computer systems on the galleries nearby. These gallery computers also have Museum guides and a catalogue of the Video and Audio Visual teaching materials available.

The Museum has a large and growing collection of approximately 8,000 pathological specimens. This teaching collection is arranged in most part systemically but with some smaller specialized sub-collections on, for instance, Forensic Medicine and HIV - AIDS. As medical education becomes more topic-based the intention is to redevelop areas of the collection.

There are also a number of important historic collections. The Joseph Towne Anatomical and Dermatological wax model collections, the Lam Qua painting collection and specimen and artifact collections of Hodgkin, Addison, Bright, and Astley Cooper. All these are on permanent display throughout the Gordon Museum. Slide and overhead projection and a projection microscope are available, as is some bookable computer space. Video players are available in all rooms.

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Hunterian Museum : Glasgow, Scotland
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland, was established around the collections of Dr. William Hunter, the celebrated 18th century anatomist, doctor and obstetrician, who was also the older brother of John Hunter of London’s Hunterian Museum. At the very core of the collections are the anatomical preparations made by Dr. Hunter and his pupils. This material differs from all other parts of his collection in that it was made and used by Hunter for teaching and research work throughout his long, successful medical career.

The collections comprise wet preparations of human, and some animal, tissues and organs, skeletal material, air-dried preparations and some animal taxidermy specimens. Hunter bequeathed his collections to Glasgow University in 1783 thereby founding the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, which opened in 1807.

The medical collections have a long and complex history reflecting the intricacies of the history of the University. The collections were supplemented considerably throughout the 19th century and into the late 20th century with new specimens being added by University teaching and research staff. The post-Hunter material includes comparative (animal) anatomy specimens, fine 19th-century wax models and specimens made using recently discovered techniques such as corrosion and plastination. The Hunter anatomical collections were moved to the Department of Anatomy in 1901 and so left the direct supervision of the Hunterian. The collection was further divided in 1954 when the pathology (morbid anatomy) specimens were removed to the University Department of Pathology at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the center of the city.

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Hunterian Museum : London, England
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England was founded in 1799 when the private collection of John Hunter was purchased by the British Government and placed into the care of the Company of Surgeons (now the Royal College of Surgeons). The Hunterian Collection contains over 3,500 specimens of human and animal anatomy and pathology, as well as paintings, fossils and other objects acquired or prepared by Hunter over the course of his career. The present Hunterian Museum also contains displays about the history and current practice of surgery and the surgical sciences.

John Hunter came to London in 1748 at the age of 20 and worked as an assistant in the anatomy school of his elder brother William (1718-83). As well as developing new ideas on the treatment of common ailments – such as gunshot wounds and venereal disease – Hunter spent time collecting specimens of lizards and other animals. On his return to England in 1763 he began to build up his private practice. His scientific work was rewarded in 1767 when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1768 he was elected Surgeon to St. George’s Hospital, and in 1783 he moved to a large house in Leicester Square, which enabled him to take resident pupils and to arrange his collection into a teaching museum.

Hunter devoted all his resources to his museum. It included nearly 14,000 preparations of more than 500 different species of plants and animals. As his reputation grew, he was supplied with rare specimens such as kangaroos acquired by Sir Joseph Banks from James Cook’s voyage of 1768­71.

While most of his contemporaries taught only human anatomy, Hunter’s lectures stressed the relationship between structure and function in all kinds of living creatures. Hunter believed that surgeons should understand how the body adapted to and compensated for damage due to injury, disease or environmental changes.

Hunter is today remembered as a founder of “scientific surgery”. He was unique in seeking to provide an experimental basis to surgical practice, and his museum is a lasting record of his pioneering work.

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The Josephinum : Vienna, Austria
The collection of wax models for the Medico-Surgical Joseph’s Academy in Vienna was commissioned by Emperor Joseph II in 1781. It was completed in 1786 and transported from Florence to Vienna in two deliveries. One of the oldest extant collections originally acquired for teaching purposes is the collection of anatomical and obstetric wax models of the former Medico-Surgical Joseph’s Academy in Vienna, in short “Josephinum.”

Since 1920 the “Josephinum” has been the home of the Institute for the History of Medicine of the Medical University Vienna. The Medico-Surgical Joseph’s Academy was opened in 1785. With the foundation of the Academy, Emperor Joseph II aimed at improving both the status and skills of army surgeons, who did not have medical degrees and were organized in craftsmen’s guilds. In order to offer the future military surgeons the best possible anatomical teaching, Joseph II commissioned a collection of anatomical and obstetric wax models in Florence–a total of 1192 single pieces. The wax models were made either by using molds taken from cadavers or by using drawings from anatomy books. Anatomists such as Felice Fontana and Paolo Mascagni dissected, while wax modelers carried out the wax work. The most prominent wax modeler among the team was Clemente Susini.

The whole collection was transported to Vienna from Florence on the backs of several hundred mules in 1785. According to documents it took approximately ten years to create the collection. The wax models represent in original size and color an anatomical encyclopedia in three dimensions. They are not only a document of the scientific spirit of the enlightenment but are also of high historico-cultural value. Today the collection still comprises approximately 1000 specimen in six rooms in the “Josephinum” in Vienna.

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The Mütter Museum : Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, PA was founded to educate future doctors about anatomy and human medical anomalies. Today, it serves as a valuable resource for educating and enlightening the public about our medical past and telling important stories about what it means to be human. The Mütter Museum embodies The College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s mission to advance the cause of health, and uphold the ideals and heritage of medicine.

In 1858, Thomas Dent Mütter, retired Professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, presented his personal collection of unique anatomic and pathological materials to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The Mütter collection now boasts over 20,000 unforgettable objects. These include fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens; skeletal and dried specimens, medical instruments and apparati; anatomical and pathological models in plaster, wax, papier-mâché, and plastic; memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians; medical illustrations, photographs, prints, and portraits. In addition, they offer changing exhibits on a variety of medical and historical topics.

Highlights of the collection include: The plaster cast of the torso of world-famous Siamese Twins, Chang & Eng, and their conjoined livers; Joseph Hyrtl’s collection of skulls; the preserved body of the “Soap Lady”; a collection of 2,000 objects extracted from people’s throats; a cancerous growth removed from President Grover Cleveland; and the tallest skeleton on display in North America.

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National Museum of Health and Medicine : Washington, D.C.
The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC, a division of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, was founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862 to study and improve medical conditions during the American Civil War. The Museum houses a collection of over 24 million items including archival materials, anatomical and pathological specimens, medical instruments and artifacts, and microscope slide-based medical research collections. The collections focus particularly on the history and practice of American medicine, military medicine, and current medical research issues. Today the Museum floor features exhibits on Civil War medicine including artifacts documenting the death of Abraham Lincoln; evolution of the microscope and medical instruments; and a hologram of the human body and a computer interactive station of the anatomy allowing visitors to view the human body from a 3-D perspective.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine has welcomed visitors since the 1860s when it was called The Army Medical Museum and located in a prominent location on the National Mall; it resided there until the late 1960s. The National Museum of Health and Medicine has also been housed in some of Washington’s most historic and memorable locations, including Ford’s Theatre, and its current location on the campus of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

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Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archives of the History of Medicine : Budapest, Hungary
Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archives of the History of Medicine (Budapest) is a government funded national public collection and research institution for exploring, presenting and disseminating the history of medicine. The Institute regards the history of medicine as a broad and culturally determined subject which includes the medical sciences, public health issues, hygiene, the history of demography and the study of the effects of environment on human health. The institute presents exhibitions of various related topics, publishes a journal and books, and organizes conferences, workshops and public lectures for different professional and general groups on a nation-wide, and an international level.

The Museum has a rich collection of medical, surgical, and dental equipment, sculptures, commemorative medals, wax models, paintings, etchings, drawings, posters, pharmacy jars, albarellos etc. from prehistoric times to the late 20th century. The Library has a peculiarly valuable collection of rare books, prints, and medical dissertations from the field of the life sciences and medicine between the 15th and 20th centuries.

The institution is named after Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818–1865), a Hungarian doctor who made some historic discoveries that remained uncredited during his lifetime. Semmelweis observed that the death rate among his maternity patients treated by medical students was much higher (13%) than in the ward served by midwives (2%). He made a connection between the symptoms of a fatal dissection wound and puerperal fever, and concluded that the fever had been transmitted to the maternity patients by medical students carrying infectious materials on their fingers from dissected cadavers. Starting in May 1847, Semmelweis required his students to wash their hands in a solution of chlorinated lime before examining patients. Mortality rates from puerperal fever promptly plunged.

Semmelweis finally published his findings in 1861, but critics continued to attack him fiercely and he reacted with increasing anger and bitterness. Mental illness overtook him in 1865; he died after only two weeks in an asylum of, ironically, sepsis from a surgical wound. That same year, Joseph Lister performed his first antiseptic operation.

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“La Specola” (Museo di Storia Naturale) : Florence, Italy
The “La Specola” Museum was inaugurated and opened to the public in 1775 by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine. The natural history collections first began under the Medici Family, a powerful and influential Florentine family from the 13th to 17th centuries.

The anatomical waxworks collection is unique in the world for the number and beauty of the models. It was commissioned by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo and the first Director of the Museum, Felice Fontana, as a method of teaching anatomy without the need for direct observations of corpses. The models, over 1,400, were manufactured between the end of the 18th and middle of the 19th century. Using dissections as a guide, models were made in clay, then plaster casts into which the wax was poured (or to be more precise a mixture of wax, resins, and coloring agents.) The waxworks were then assembled and the finishing touches added.

An enormous quantity of models were manufactured from 1771 to the second half of the 19th century. Besides the rich collection on show at the Specola, consisting of over 1,400 pieces conserved in 562 cases, the Florentine ceroplastic workshop produced several other collections now residing in museums throughout the world.

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The Vrolik : Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Vrolik Museum, in Amsterdam, originated as a private collection of father Gerard Vrolik (1775–1859) and his son Willem Vrolik (1801–1863). Both of them were professors of anatomy in Amsterdam, though, not at the same time. True 19th-century collectors that they were, they collected specimens from over a wide field of interests: regular anatomy, comparative anatomy, pathological anatomy, and congenital malformations. At the death of Willem Vrolik the collection comprised about 5000 specimens. For teaching purposes the collection was donated to the Amsterdam ”Illustre school” (that became a university in 1877).

New specimens were added to the collection by subsequent professors of anatomy, of which Louis Bolk (1866–1930) is the most important. He collected about 3,000 specimens, mostly in the fields of evolutionary morphology, physical anthropology and regular anatomy. The last important specimens were added in the 1950s, bringing the total number of objects in their collection to about 10,000. Besides wet specimens and dried, osteological specimens, the museum also has a rich collection of wax embryological models and plaster anatomy torsos and busts.

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All contents copyright of Joanna Ebenstein, 2008.