Surgeons’ Hall Museum, has always been an intriguing place for me and is, in fact, one of my favourite places in Edinburgh. Tucked away in the Royal College of Surgeons’ Campus in Edinburgh, if you have an interest in anatomy, surgery and the curiosities of the human body, you could do far worse than spend an hour or two exploring it’s many treasures.
During my final year at DJCAD the Museum was, and remains, an incredibly inspiring resource. Originally founded in 1505, with its collections expanding rapidly after 1699 when the cultural interest in natural curiosities blossomed. It was originally intended to be a medical teaching resource and is home to three individual museums: Pathology; the History of Surgery and the Dental Museum.
Yes, it’s weird. Yes, it’s wonderful. But it’s also rather beautiful. When you walk through the Pathology Museum, one of the largest collections of pathological anatomy in the UK, you are confronted with shelves lined with jars containing preserved slices and sections of medical abnormalities, diseases of tissue and bone and preserved examples of the effects of weaponry on the body some some of which date back more than 100 years. Given that so much of my own work was focused on the removal of body parts from their original context, the research opportunities and context afforded by Surgeon’s Hall was invaluable.
If you venture upstairs to the History of Surgery, you will find Edinburgh’s special contribution to surgical practice in modern times. This gallery traces the key dates in Scotland’s surgical advances and focuses on key figures such as Syme and pre-anaesthesia surgery, Simpson and the discovery of chloroform as an anaesthetic; and Lister and the breakthrough discovery of antiseptic.
The collection in the Dental Museum is also amazing, exploring the development of dentistry from its earliest days to modern times. Despite initially looking like a small exhibit, it’s jam-packed with a huge range of tools and equipment.
Add to this the range of lectures, events and artist’s workshops and you have an amazing resource for artists and designers alike.