Museums of Medine in London

London has at least twenty museums devoted to the history of medicine. Some of the most popular visitor destinations include the Wellcome Collection, the Hunterian Museum, the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret.

Wellcome Collection

Exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection are always free of charge. The permanent exhibition explores the general workings of the human body and includes a number of items carefully designed to interest children and young adults. Temporary exhibitions look at the history of medicine through works of art, such as photographs, cultural objects, film and literature, which are displayed along side scientific instruments and artefacts related to medicine.  A recent exhibition entitled Dirt the filthy Reality of Everyday Life looked at how we create it, how we deal with it, and what we think about it?

Drug Paraphernalia on Display at Wellcome Collection

Drug Paraphernalia on Display at Wellcome Collection
Credit: Frances Spiegel 2010

Part of a kit for illegal drug use. Photograph by Frances Spiegel with permission from the Wellcome Collection[4]

Hunterian Museum

 The Hunterian Museum[5] is one of London's smaller exhibition spaces and, like the Wellcome, admission is free. The Hunterian was established in 1813 as the official museum of the Royal College of Surgeons and it can be found inside The Royal College of Surgeons of England, 35-43 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3PE.
The Hunterian might be a small museum, but it makes a big impact! The installation explores four hundred years of medical history, and includes one of the world's oldest collections of preserved anatomical parts, both human and animal. At the other extreme, displays explain some of the latest developments in surgery and technological progress.
You can either hire an audio guide when you arrive, or download a free audio guide to listen to on an MP3 player. The Hunterian website offers a number of descriptive audio guides providing in-depth descriptions of some of the museum's most unusual exhibits. The guide also features interviews with museum curators, surgeons and medical historians. Hunterian Museum - London describes the permanent exhibition in more detail.
The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity
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Chelsea Physic Garden

The Chelsea Physic Garden[1], the capital’s oldest botanic garden, was set up by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1673 as a place where students could learn to name plants and study their medicinal properties. The garden is located in the heart of London, close to the River Thames. In its own little micro-climate the Chelsea Physic Garden provides an environment where non-British plants are able to survive. The garden has a number of interesting plants and trees including the largest outdoor fruiting olive tree in Britain.

Guy's Hospital - The Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret

Guy's Hospital Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret[3] can be found in the herb garret, below the roof rafters of St Thomas' church. The space was originally used for the storage of herbs and plants. The theatre, which dates back to the early 19th century, is surrounded by a small amphitheatre which seats sixty. In its day it was the ideal place for surgeons to demonstrate their skills to medical students and the curious public. The Garret website provides a number of online tours and exhibitions explaining the history of The Old Operating Theatre.
Please note that there are no facilities for disabled visitors and entry to the museum is by a 32 step spiral staircase.

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Visiting London?

If you're visiting London my Infobarrel colleague Ethel Smith provides plenty of helpful information in her article Visiting London, England - Family Attractions.



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