Research and Inspiration / Hunterian Museum

Final Major project, Inventivity / Level 6, Visual Research and Inspiration

The Hunterian Museum is part of the Royal College of Surgeons and can be found in Holborn. Inside the imposing building is one of the largest collections of anatomical, pathological and zoological specimens. The collection is created by the founder of scientific surgery John Hunter (1728-1793) and is absolutely astounding. There are over 3,500 specimens, fossils, drawings and paintings of animals as well as humans. The collection is both morbid and fascinating.


The Hunterian collections include the skeleton of the 7ft 7in tall ‘Irish giant’ Charles Byrne, a collection of surgical instruments dating from the seventeenth century, carbolic sprays used by Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, the tooth of a megatherium (an extinct giant sloth) donated by Charles Darwin, a dodo skeleton – and Winston Churchill’s dentures.

I visited this collection for a few different reasons, first, I am incredibly interested in Scientific specimens, zoological and botanical illustration, especially Victorian (and older!) collections. So on a personal level this museum is fantastic, full of natural wonders, curiosities and advancements in science and our knowledge of the natural world. Secondly, My final major project centres around the theme of Cabinets of Curiosities so this museum is a great way to view collections of the natural world and scientific specimens. It’s a great way for me to piece together exactly what I want this collection of work to be and how I want to display it in order to tell my own story.

There are some big differences between the display of specimens here and in other museums, such as Victor Wynd’s Cabinet of Curiosities. There is a lot of thought into the categorisation of specimens here, there is a definite home for each small collection within the wider collection of specimens. Specimens are shown in a chronological order showing the advancements of scientific study. Each specimen is clearly labelled and explained shown in clear glass display cabinets.

The Hunterian Museum is closing on the 20th of May 2017 till 2020 for restoration and renovation so theres not long left to visit if you haven’t been here yet! Have a look at the website here!


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