Huntarian Museum – Royal College of Surgeons

An amazing place to visit…

A huge collection of medical specimens collected and created over years by John Hunter during the 1800’s. These specimens were ground breaking at the time and forged the way for medicine as we know it today.

The specimens are a mixture of human and animal and i was surprised that they were intermingled but the reasoning became apparent whilst reading the biography of John Hunter ‘The Knife Man’ by Wendy Moore. John Hunter made it his life’s work to explore how the human body worked and compared his findings between animal anatomy and human anatomy. Both of the hunter brothers became infamous during their lifetime because of their use of ‘Resurrectionists‘ Men employed to disinter the bodies of the recently deceased. Legally only a few bodies were available to anatomists annually from the execution of criminals.

The collection has examples of many diseases as well as exploratory samples of nerves and blood vessels but also medical instruments.

There was also a lovely small textile piece within the exhibition, a sampler created in 1848 by an 11 year old girl called Charlotte Waite who had survived after one of the first operations using chloroform as an anaesthetic.

Affected by the anonymity of the specimens artist Karen Ingham was commissioned by The Wellcome Trust to create a piece of work. ‘Narrative Remains’ is a film that gives a voice to six of the specimens within the Huntarian collection. There was also a book illustrating this piece of work which i bought and found fascinating.

 

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