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Biomedicine in museums

A private museum of historical medical artefacts on the web

By November 25, 2009No Comments

Like most other kinds of historical artefacts, medical objects from the past are scattered all over. Some are safely deposited in museums, small or large; others are in private collections; others again are circulating between private collectors, mediated by eBay and other auction services (and some, especially plastic objects from contemporary medicine, are contributing to landfill).

Whereas most public collections are online, most private are not. An inspiring exception from this internet invisibility of private collections is Donald Blaufox’s Museum of Historical Medical Artifacts. Working as a professor in nuclear medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University Dr. Blaufox has spent much of his spare time in the last thirty years building up a collection of medical artefacts “that could serve as a nidus for a museum of medical history as evidenced by the objects that contributed to its development”.

Some objects “were acquired simply because they have some medical significance, others for their beauty, but all of them because they help to understand the evolution of medicine over the centuries”. He didn’t have the ambition to transform it into a public museum, but entertained the idea of prodcuing a catalogue in book form instead. Then, two years ago, he decided to go online. Now the web-based MoHMA contains over 1000 objects representing a wide range of medical practices and of craftsmanship.

Nicely and competently curated and beautifully represented in images, the MoHMA website is yet another example of how important private collectors have been, and still are, for the preservation and communication of the material medical heritage.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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