Gordon Museum

March 2, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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After my recent excursion to the Hunterian Museum I was advised that I should check out the Gordon Museum. It’s located at the Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals, University London near London Bridge. The Gordon is a hospital museum spread out over two floors and four rooms each with about half a dozen rows along the edge and brimming with specimen jars of human anatomy.

Most of the specimens have been included due to an abnormality such as an enlarged kidney or heart as a result of disease etc. There are other items like the specimens highlighting the extensive paths in the lungs.

Each specimen has a number that can be looked up in one of the adjacent folders, it will have a brief summary of the item (as well as the problem with it) and how it came into the collection. The man who cut off his own penis after a moment of religious zealousness was just a tad squeamish!

One of the rooms deals with forensics and I’m sure is incredibly interesting but unfortunately it was closed when we visited.

The Gordon Museum is a private museum and you’ll generally need to be a student (or be friends with one) in order to access it. Please check their website to see what your options are.

If you have an interest in medicine and liked the specimens at the Hunterian then you’ll find the Gordon just as compelling.

Lastly and most importantly a big thank you to “Miss S”  for getting me into the Gordon Museum – well worth it!

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Hunterian Museum

February 28, 2009 at 1:28 am | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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The Hunterian Museum near Lincoln’s Field (Temple/Holborn Tube) charts the history of surgery and surgical practices in the UK. The Museum is located within the Royal College of Surgeons and as a result you’ll need to pick up a visitor badge at the entrance before going up the stairs. An audio guide is available but not necessary – especially if you’re running short on time.

John Hunter was one of the UK’s leading surgeons in England (1728-1793), eventually the collection was sold to the government and the Royal College of Surgeons and later became a public museum. Unfortunately much of the collection was destroyed during World War II. The museum was refurbished in 2005 and it certainly looks good.

The museum spans two floors with an open shaft bisecting them, the information panels run along the outer edge and a multitude of specimen jars lining the inner side overlooking (or looking up) the floors.

The specimen jars include animal and human body parts, organs and bones – some are healthy but many are not. If you’re squeamish (for example there are foetuses) then this might be a little disquieting or not a suitable museum. However, there were a few people with children walking around. Interestingly, there were also a number of artists or students sketching the contents of these jars.

The information panels cover John Hunter’s life, diagnosis and development, surgery in the war, surgical practices (such as the cleanliness of the operating theatre), training and the future. Personal stories and video content is also available but again those who are squeamish might have some problems. A fun or challenging activity depending on how you look at it is a sample surgery robot where you can move the arms remotely while trying to move blocks from one space to another. Personally my depth perception must be quite poor as I wasn’t successful – luckily Tay who was with me was a lot better!

We only had an hour and we were pushing to see everything in that time. If you want to look at each specimen and also the audio guide you’ll need more time. If you’re interested in medicine or a slightly different museum come to the Hunterian.

Wellcome Collection

February 28, 2009 at 12:38 am | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Opposite Euston station is the Wellcome Collection it’s a free gallery and library focusing on medicine with the occasional special exhibit.

The main galleries are Medicine Now and Medicine Man with a third having temporary exhibits. Medicine Now predictably looks at some of the contemporary issues in medicine with displays on obesity, malaria and the human genome. This gallery is well presented with listening chairs – when you sit down you’ll hear a blurb about one of the themes, the sound doesn’t travel so it doesn’t bother other patrons. The entire are is well lit and bright with some interesting displays. One of the more fun activities is a biometric picture where you can enter some details like heart rate and height for a geometric picture of ‘you’. Quite cool.

In Medicine Man you’ll walk through a wood panelled gallery featuring artifacts Henry Wellcome collected during the 19th century. There are a variety of items such as drawings, prints, paintings, replacement limbs and many random and interesting bits and pieces such as Japanese sex aids and Napoleon’s toothbrush. In the wood panels are tastefully hidden information boards that provide more information on each item, its use and how it came into the collection.

The Wellcome Collection is an excellent museum, its often open late and is free. I would advise checking its upcoming events for temporary exhibits that interest you and planning your visit accordingly.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett

February 3, 2008 at 10:53 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Random, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Britain’s only surviving 19th century operating theatre was today’s tourist spot. The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett is a relatively small museum hidden in a fairly non-descript building near London Bridge. While on St Thomas street keep an eye out for number 9, a church like building – perhaps quite difficult to differentiate in London – and hopefully you’ll have found the museum. A quick climb up the narrow spiral staircase and you’ll be at the gift shop/ ticket counter. For £5.40 (adult) you can proceed up another staircase to the attic that houses the display cases and operating theatre.

The Herb Garrett is the main section and has cases holding various instruments with helpful and occasionally disturbing descriptions of their medical use during the 1800s. As you walk around you’ll also be exposed to a range of smells as the exhibit includes examples of items in an apothecary because “herb garrett” as the name implies was used to dry, of all things, herbs. The final piece of note about this section is the array of body parts held in jars. Most concerning was definitely the lungs of a Londoner (black not the normal pink).  I hope that’s just a result of heavy industrialisation and not still the same as today.

The Operating Theatre is a picture of a pre-hygienic medicine with wooden benches and an open viewing area for students to watch the surgeons work. One of the staff will give a talk (about 30 minutes) and you should definitely take the time to listen. You will get a synopsis of the building (this is a female operating room housed in a church, specifically above the nave – sounds sacrilegious!), the profession of surgeons and the quality of medicine during the period. Due to infection and blood loss the most common operations were removing gall stones or amputation (in both cases it would have to be a severe case).

The entire museum is fairly interesting and the talk is particularly worthwhile, especially if you have an interest in medicine, the Victorian period or a potentially unhealthy curiosity. When visiting this hidden museum you might be lucky and bump into friends! They also have activities for children although it would be at your discretion how much (if any) of the talk they listen to as it can be graphic.

My major reservation is the cost. The museum is run as a charity and therefore needs the ticket price and donations for its upkeep but I would suggest that an entry fee closer to £4 would be a more appropriate to the floor space and the time spent in the attic. Realistically, the pound difference is a personal price point and won’t be a significant factor for most. There were certainly quite a few people in the museum and seemingly unconcerned by the cost.

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