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Top 5 museums to discover London’s medical history

26 December 2011 | London Calling

A day of discovery, delving into London’s dark history of medicine and its gory treatment will certainly rejuvenate post-festive spirits.

In the days following the 25th of December, once the presents have been given and received and all traces of turkey sandwiches demolished, a certain post-Christmas gloom descends. An injection of thrill and excitement is required to reinvigorate one’s waning spirits in the wake of festivities.

The first stop on the map is undoubtedly the Wellcome Collection. The museum provides an overview of every implement and delicacy relating to the historic trade of medicine. The museum was founded by pioneering 19th-century pharmacist and entrepreneur, Sir Henry Wellcome, and displays a vast collection of implements relating to the human body and health. The museum houses both permanent and temporary exhibitions which endear one to consider precisely what it means to be human. Visit the central exhibition, Medicine Man, and discover extraordinary medical objects from across cultures; discover the story behind Napoleon’s tooth brush and the historic use of ‘diagnostic dolls’. Follow this up, if you can stomach it, with a visit to the museum café and reading rooms.

Another museum certain to expand on this myriad of medical mysteries is the Hunterian Museum and Archives. Delve into a captivating mixture of human and animal anatomy; examine surgical and dental instruments, pathological specimens, paintings, drawings and sculptures. This museum, recently subjected to a 3.2 million refurbishment, offers both permanent exhibitions and temporary collections. We recommend a visit to Ju Gosling’s touring exhibition: Abnormal: Towards a Scientific Model of Disability. Using digital imagery and installation, the exhibit employs photography within the study of anatomy.
Following these general examinations of London’s murky medical history, consider a visit to the Florence Nightingale Museum, the Alexander Fleming museum or specialize your experience in the world of teeth with a trip to the BDA’s Dental Museum.

The Florence Nightingale museum tells the story of the mastermind behind modern nursing. The legend of the Lady with the Lamp is explained through an examination of the health reforms inspired by Nightingale’s work at home and abroad. This intriguing story is told through a visualisation of Nightingale’s life; see the writing slate she used as a child and the actual medicine chest which accompanied her to the Crimea War.

Next on the list is surely the Alexander Fleming Museum. Discover the secrets of the man responsible for one of the most revolutionary discoveries of modern medicine: penicillin. The Museum includes a reconstruction of the laboratory in which Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 and video footage examining the remarkable results of this chance discovery.

Make your final visit a gory one; the BDA Dental Museum houses a collection of over 30,000 items concerning dentistry treatment of today and, more ominously, of the past. The Museum began in 1919 when Lilian Lindsay, the first qualified female dentist, decided to put her small set of dentistry equipment on display and aims to make the history of dentistry and contemporary dentistry more accessible to the general public.

Whether you have the time to visit one or all of the above, something among this concoction of all-things-medical is sure to add a touch of spice to those post-festive blues.

 
Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BE
Galleries: 10am - 6pm Tue - Sat, until 10pm Thur, 11am - 6pm Sun (closed Mon except bank hols)
Library: 10am - 6pm Mon - Sat, 10am - 8pm Thur, 10am - 4pm Sat. Closed Dec 24 - 26, Dec 31 & Jan 1
 
Hunterian Museum and Archives
35 - 43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields WC2A 3PE
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 – 17:00
Closed Christmas to New Year
 
Florence Nightingale Museum
St Thomas’ Hospital SE1 7EW
Open 7 days per week 10:00 – 17:00
Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day
 
Alexander Fleming Museum
St Mary’s Hospital W21NY
Monday - Thursday 10:00 -  13:00
Closed 24 December - 2 January inclusive
 
BDA Museum
62 Wimpole Street W1G 8YS
Open Tuesday and Thursdays 13:00 – 16:00
 

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